Anna Maria Island has been rated fourth by Trip Advisors Travelers’ Choice Islands awards 2012, for US islands.
Only 4th? Well the survey is based on a year of travelers’ feedback on quantity and quality of island attractions, hotels, and restaurants, so it does come with some objectivity but I wonder if a few days’ visit is enough to get anything more than a superficial impression.
The year 2013 is off to a sunny start with a very warm first weeks on Anna Maria Island. In contrast to the typical January’s cool air and fog, January, 2013, has been balmy so far. The temperature has passed 80 degrees on many days. Even the cold fronts have not brought frigid weather.
Warm weather on the island in January has its pros and cons. It’s nice not to have to turn on the heat, but this year many people’s air conditioners are still running.
Even though the island is at the northernmost point at which coconut palms can survive, it’s not surprising that from time to time they are wiped out. In the past few years, Anna Maria Island has lost many of its beautiful coconut palms. Very cold temperatures either killed them immediately or damaged them enough that they have not thrived and have been vulnerable to insect pests and disease. The warm temperatures have been very good news for some of the more cold-sensitive plants. It’s fortunate for the trees that recent cold winters have not been followed by even more cold, but, unfortunately, warm temperatures also help encourage pests.
The oil from BP’s drilling disaster is still spewing almost 400 miles to the northwest of Anna Maria Island, but it still has not reached our beautiful white beaches. Our feeling of appreciation for these beaches has been heightened as we think the unthinkable: that our abundant wildlife and beautiful clear water and white sand beaches could be seriously harmed by the catastrophe that is doing so much harm to the environment north of us.
Signs that islanders cherish our special beaches are apparent as the holiday weekend approaches here. In particular, there is a new group in Anna Maria called NEMO (North End Merchants Organization), which is planning an extensive trash clean up on July 5, after the anticipated dumping of trash on the beaches by thoughtless visitors. Volunteers will meet at the Roser Community Church, at Ginny’s and Jane’s at the Old IGA, and at Crosspointe Fellowship Church at the south border of the city of Anna Maria. Each group will focus on a particular stretch of beach within Anna Maria.
In addition to this organized effort, there likely will be many individual volunteers who just naturally take it upon themselves to walk the beach with large garbage bags after the fourth, picking up the debris and litter. In past years, members of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch have been particularly generous in performing this task, not only after the holiday, but in the course of their activities through the entire sea turtle nesting season. Turtles and birds can be badly injured or die from ingesting plastic, or from becoming tangled in it.
Here it is, mid summer, and we still are enjoying our daily walks over to the beach. Most of us who live on Anna Maria Island are able to walk to the beach. It is wonderful not to have to drive. The island is so narrow at the south end that the beach is never more than three or four blocks away. Farther north, the island widens and the walk increases by a few more blocks. But the only areas from which a walk to the beach would take more than just a few minutes are Key Royale and the neighborhoods near Galati Marine at the southeast end of the City of Anna Maria.
Our house is exactly a half mile from the beach. We usually make that walk and then continue along the beach, toward the setting sun before we turn and head home. The beach part of the walk is spectacular every evening. Tonight the beach was particularly wide, and the sand looked smooth and white. The temperature was extremely pleasant—amazing for mid August! The water reflected the pink/orange glow from the low sun. There was almost nobody on the beach. This is the kind of “paradise” experience for which people travel long distances. How lucky we are to be able to walk to it.
In recent years, the beaches of Anna Maria Island have become less pristine. Although they still compare well to most beaches, there has been an increase in litter. It doesn’t all come from those who spend time at the beach, but much of it does. In addition, trash from boats washes ashore.
The biggest problem is how this affects our precious wildlife. Sea turtles, who eat jelly fish, can easily mistake a plastic bag for food. We’ve all see birds entangled in fishing line, or caught in plastic, such as that which comes with six-packs of cans. There are many small pieces of colored plastic on the beach, from toys and containers and other objects that have broken up, but are not going to decompose for many more years. Such small, bright items are interesting to birds. It is sad how many pieces of plastic are found in the stomachs of dead sea birds.
July 4 always brings crowds to the beach—and litter. Especially before law enforcement cracked down on private fireworks, the amount of firework remnants all along the island’s beaches on the morning of July 5 was shocking. Fortunately, there are people on the island who walk the beach with garbage bags, picking up a lot of this trash after the July 4 celebration. They are not paid or organized. They are the perfect example of good private citizens just trying to keep the place they love clean and beautiful.