Ft. Desoto Cleanup- East Beach
The day began bright and early at 8:00 AM at one our finest kiteboarding spots, East Beach at Ft. Desoto Park in Pinellas county, Fl.. We arrived to an unexpected breeze, so before setting up the cookout station, we took the opportunity to teach a few of our younger volunteers the finer points of flying a trainer kite. None of them had flown a trainer kiter before, but within a few minutes all three of them were working the kite around the wind window with relative ease. After seeing their smiles and sense of accomplishment, I am fairly certain they will be asking for kites on their next birthday.
As more volunteers were arriving and the wind was dying, we decided to get the cleanup done before it got too hot. We snacked on donuts and orange juice before grabbing our gloves and trash bags to see what kind of trash we could round up. We were able to cover "our" end of East Beach on both sides, all the way to the end of the fitness trail. Overall, the park workers keep that place immaculate, so we were able to spend more time in the mangrove areas where the higher tides drop lots of garbage. We recovered many bottles and cans, plastic bags, wrappers, shoes, and everything else you can think of! Skyway Scott braved the stench of a rotting fish to get it off the beach and into the garbage, which is a danger to the feet of every beach-goer. Many kiters have suffered puncture wounds from fish bones, especially after a fish kill from red tide.
After cleaning the beach, TBKA's own "Bayflite" Bryan, served up the hungry volunteers a hearty beach breakfast. Bryan is well known by the locals for his tasty beachside meals, and once again he came through with a great menu of: western omelets, hash browns, toast, and even toaster strudel with icing! We also had fresh fruit and plenty of drinks to help beat the heat as we discussed past and future seasons among the newer kiters and veterans. Since Bryan had some afternoon work to do, he turned over the cooking duties to Joe M., who cooked up burgers, dogs, and BBQ chicken for everyone.
After roasting in the sun all day, everyone was ready for a swim, so the festivities wrapped up at East Beach around 3:00, and we headed to Steve and Sue's house for a pool party. What a great end to a good day at the beach! Many of this events volunteers were new or prospective kiters, and plenty of new ideas were flowing, especially in working with other local groups to help protect the environment. Jim, who is a dive coordinator at the Florida Aquarium and an active volunteer with Tampa Bay Watch, gave us some great insight on the history of hang gliding in Florida and their favorite place, Wallaby Field near Orlando. Jim is going to keep us posted on volunteer opportunities with Tampa Bay Watch, as they may welcome our group of eager volunteers to assist in their projects. Thanks to all the friends and family of ASF/ Kite4Life, its volunteers, and to Ft. Desoto Park, for helping to preserve such a wonderful spot!