When visiting the beach you may notice from time to time that a tiny area up near one of the dunes -- maybe two square feet in size -- has been marked off by four short stakes wrapped with neon orange tape. This marker designates a sea turtle nest site. Sea turtles come ashore at night to lay their eggs in a small pit that the mother digs in the sand. During nesting season, special patrols on four wheelers scan the beach shortly after sunrise in search of new nesting sites. If they find one (usually indicated by turtle tracks or a burrow imprint), the sea turtle patrol marks off the nest so that beachgoers don't accidently step on it. Generally, these nests are made pretty far up on the beach and out of the way of people at play anyway, so they don't ever cause a problem. Nevertheless, tiny sea turtle hatchlings have a hard enough time surviving their march back to sea, so the least we can do is keep an eye out so the little guys at least have a chance.
Beaches are celebrated as barefoot wonderlands where adults and children alike can walk, run, bike and swim while enjoying the beautiful landscape. Fortunately, Jacksonville's beaches offer clean, wide strands on which to play, and us locals like to keep it that way. In fact, some local beaches have even been recognized as nationally certified Blue Wave clean beaches. You can help keep them that way by not littering the sands and ocean with trash. Discarded soda cans, plastic bags, and other waste products not only look unattractive but can have serious consequences for natural wildlife. Jacksonville's beaches have trash cans located at major public access points so there is no excuse. So, enjoy that picnic on the sand but please pick up your trash when you're done. Let your footprints be the only thing you leave behind on the beach, so that everyone can continue to enjoy them.
Sea oats play a vital role in protecting the sand dunes that line our shores. These sand dunes serve as a protective buffer for oceanfront buildings in the event of a hurricane. Due to the curvature of our country's Atlantic coast, Jacksonville has a relatively low chance of getting hit by a hurricane as it is situated farther west than any other coastal Atlantic city. Nevertheless, as 2004 demonstrated, we, like all of Florida, can certainly feel some of a hurricane's side effects. Sand dunes and the pretty sea oats that help anchor them bear the brunt of coastal winds and high seas during a hurricane. That's why you can get fined heavily if you're caught picking sea oats.