TREASURE ISLAND — Carrie Auerbach, founder of Treasure Island’s Adopt-A-Beach group, hopes more people come out of their shells to volunteer to keep the beach clean of litter and protect sea turtle hatchlings.
She is this year's recipient of the Keep Pinellas Beautiful "Adoption Volunteer of the Year" award as a result of recruiting and inspiring more than 476 volunteers to dedicate themselves to beach cleanup. Those volunteers have removed over 4,140 pounds of debris from Treasure Island’s sandy shore.
Originally from Buffalo, New York, Auerbach said she has been passionate about keeping the beach clean ever since moving to the island from Philadelphia seven years ago.
She always wanted to live where there was a beach and palm trees, and after visiting Treasure Island, decided that was the place to be. During beach walks, protecting the beauty and look of the beach quickly became her passion.
She said she would like to make Treasure Island Adopt-A-Beach a model for the rest of the beach communities and would be willing to help groups in other areas form cleanup groups.
While the city also has two other groups that clean up both the north and south end of the beach, she said Adopt-A-Beach cleans the sand on the entire three miles of the island.
A big part of Adopt-A-Beach’s year-round mission is to clean the beach of cigarette butts, dirty diapers, cans, bottles, plastic straws and trash left on the beach. Cleanups take place after most weekends and in a more organized effort after major holidays.
The group’s motto is “leave no trace.” Its Facebook page notes group members are passionate about “serving to keep the island clean and safe for people and wildlife by creating a culture of a trash-free beach, while striving to be a model for other communities.”
Adopt-A-Beach works with local hotels to distribute clean-up bags on the beach and sometimes acts on its own. Auerbach noted many visitors come to the beach and do not remember to bring bags to remove their litter. They are grateful when their volunteers walk the beach distributing clean-up bags and offering interesting information about sea turtles.
A Hawaii vacation got her interested in sea turtles and the precarious way they hatch their eggs. When she moved to Treasure Island she was glad to find they have to be protected on Treasure Island’s Gulf Coast during turtle hatching season.
Her group works with the city, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Keep Pinellas Beautiful and various other groups to protect the hatchlings on Treasure Island Beach. Volunteers make sure nest areas are marked with “do not disturb” signs and visitors are informed about how to care for sea turtle hatchlings.
They also remove and report obstructions that prevent sea turtles from laying eggs, such as sand castles and holes in the sand. It’s important to remember, since turtles can’t back up, they can’t get past sand castles to lay eggs, she noted, so many go back out to sea.
She is so passionate about sea turtles that last week she traveled to Costa Rica to witness the green sea turtle nesting season and learn more about what can be done to protect them. “Over 400 turtles come to the beach each night for three to four months to lay eggs. This was a truly remarkable experience. I learned so much and am so grateful to have been there,” she said about the trip.
She said she learned that the gender of a new hatchling is determined by how warm the sand is, with more heat creating more female turtles, so global warming will play a big part in whether more male or female hatchlings are born. Also, a mother sea turtle is not monogamous during the breeding season at sea. Only female sea turtles come back on land, while the male spends his entire life out at sea.
Auerbach said a discussion on the State of the Treasure Island Beaches will be sponsored by Adopt-A-Beach, the city, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Keep Pinellas Beautiful, and Tampa Bay Waterkeepers on Tuesday, Aug. 30, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Treasure Island Community Center, 154 106th Avenue.
She said people are invited to “come and listen, ask questions and learn about what is happening on the Treasure Island beaches.”
“We are right in the middle of turtle season, so Lindsey Flynn from Clearwater Marine Aquarium will talk about how nesting and hatching is going,” she said.
Stacy Boyles, the city’s assistant public works director and sustainability coordinator, will provide an update on the upcoming beach nourishment scheduled for the summer of 2023.
Justin Tramble from Tampa Bay Waterkeepers will explain how to identify water issues in the Gulf, as well as what TBW does in the community. Representatives from Keep Pinellas Beautiful will explain what everyone can do to keep the beaches clean and Auerbach will talk about upcoming events and ideas to educate beach visitors.
In another Adopt-A-Beach event, on Monday evening, Sept. 5, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., a beach cleanup will be held along the sand of the entire island. Volunteers are asked to meet at Treasure Island Community Center Park Pavilion for supplies, parking passes, T-shirts, bags and gloves.
For more information, contact Auerbach at email@example.com or 215-694-6692.