Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times bestselling author of Beach House For Rent (Gallery Books is an imprint of our sister company Simon & Schuster). Learn more at www.maryalicemonroe.com.
It’s summer, a time we all head to our favorite water spot—river, pond, lake, ocean. Some of us rent a beach house. Why? Being near water calms us down, restores our spirit, and helps us feel connected to the world around us. Going to the beach, we stare out at the sea and it’s like we push a delete button in our brain for stress. Even a photo of a beach evokes relaxation and brings up thoughts of a vacation.
Every summer, throngs of people descend upon beaches. We also share beaches with flocks of non-human visitors! Migrating shorebirds play tag with the waves, pelicans fly overhead in formation like bombardiers on patrol, sea turtles nest on the dunes, and our beloved dolphins swim along the shore. These are just some of the other creatures that share our treasured coastline. Many of them need our help to protect and preserve not only our beaches, but also their livelihood.
Here are my simple tips for your next beach visit:
- Stay off sand dunes. They are nesting grounds for turtles and shorebirds. When the birds feel threatened, they fly up, exposing their eggs and chicks to the relentless sun.
- “Let ‘em rest. Let ‘em nest!” (Audubon) Teach your children to be good stewards and not chase shorebirds. Also, please keep your dogs on leashes when you see a group of birds clustered along the shore. It’s not cute to see them scatter birds; in fact, the birds lose critical energy for nests and migration when frightened this way.
- Retrieve your fishing lines and hooks. Loose in the sea, they can be deadly to birds, turtles and dolphins.
- Avoid bringing plastic bags, straws, balloons and plastic bottles to the beach. It’s easy to get in the habit of using beach bags and coolers, and is much more environmentally-friendly as well.
- Fill in your sand holes. Sea turtles — and humans — can get stuck in them.
- Pick up your own trash, plus one extra item you see lying on the sand. Visit the beach with this mantra in mind: Leave only your footprints in the sand.
It’s easy to feel helpless when we hear bad news about the environment, especially with Climate Change headlines. But take heart. You can make a difference. No matter which beach you live near or vacation at, the simple actions we take today will help preserve all that we love about the beach (or lake or river) so that our children and our grandchildren can enjoy its wild beauty for generations to come. Light one candle!