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NATURE GUARDIANS: Rodwell, Fish-Tale gain stewardship awards

June 19, 2013
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Outstanding community service in the field of environmental conservation was recognized at Town Hall Monday evening.

Beach resident James Rodwell and Fish-Tale Marina were selected winners of the 2012 Town of Fort Myers Beach Mayor John Mulholland Stewardship Award. Rodwell was selected in the individual category, while Fish-Tale was chosen in the business category.

The Mayor John Mulholland Stewardship Award is rewarded annually to individuals, businesses and/or non-profit organizations that practice good stewardship by way of using subject property carefully, reporting hazards or violations and recognizing the relationship and responsibilities to protecting natural resources as well as its promotion of awareness, education and preservation.

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Beach resident Jim Rodwell, known for his tireless passion and volunteer work at Matanzas Pass Preserve and on Town environmentally minded advisory committees, was chosen in the individual category for the 2012 Town of Fort Myers Beach Mayor John Mulholland Stewardship Award.

Rodwell is well-known for his stewardship work as a board member of Matanzas Pass Preserve and other natural resources on the island and its surrounding area. At the Preserve, he volunteers as a tour guide to educate residents and visitors about the area maintained for the protection of wildlife and natural resources as well as organizing and directing volunteer work days. He also initiated a program to build a Resource Station building at the Preserve, one that has $10,000 set aside and another that hopefully has $10,000 earmarked within the next year.

"I thoroughly enjoy working in the Preserve," said Rodwell when hearing about the award. "I need to credit (Lee County Parks and Recreation's) Terry Cain. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have gotten involved in the Preserve."

Rodwell has also been involved with Town environmentally conscience groups as a chair and member of the Community Resources Advisory Board, a member of the Town's Anchorage Advisory Committee and a member of the Fertilizer Ad-Hoc Committee where he was involved in writing and obtaining Town approval for a comprehensive fertilizer ordinance in 2008.

Rodwell is also a certified Florida Master Naturalist after taking the Coastal course at Ostego Bay Foundation and the Wetlands and Uplands courses at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. He credits Cain for pushing him towards the program to learn more about Florida's ecosystems.

"She encouraged Dorothy (his wife) and I to take the courses," he said. "I may take another conversationalist program soon to stay up on things."

Fish Tale Marina was the first business on Fort Myers Beach to be designated in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's "Clean Marina" Program as a facility that engages in environmentally friendly practices in and around Florida's waterways by way of implementing a set of environmental measures designed to protect Florida's waterways. These measures address critical environmental issues such as sensitive habitat, waste management, stormwater control, spill prevention and emergency preparedness.

The staff at Fish-Tale is fully certified to be prepared in CPR and for oil spills and hurricanes. Fish-Tale Marina co-owner Al Durrett is a past member of the Town's Marine Resources Task Force, an advisory committee that promotes responsible planning and management of the island's marine resources. While on that committee, he was instrumental in helping craft a brochure for "Pole and Troll" seagrass protection in the Back Bay.

The Mayor John Mulholland Stewardship Award is an annual selection or selections to individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations nominated by citizen input for the voluntary conservation of natural habitat and wildlife for environmental management. MRTF then is tasked with discussing the nominations and making recommendations to the FMB Town Council, who officially chooses to award a winner or winners.

The award is named in honor of former Beach Mayor John Mulholland, who is credited with the formation of MRTF in the summer of 1997. Mulholland, who has since passed, was elected vice mayor of the Council in January 1999 and mayor in January 2000. His Council subject assignments were environment, harbor, bay, coastal management and parks and recreation. Before his Council term, Mulholland served as the first chairman of the Town's Local Planning Agency.

"The Mulholland Award is in recognition of efforts above and beyond taking care of the environment," said Councilman Dan Andre, a former MRTF member and current Council liaison.

The honorees were among four nominations presented to MRTF. The others were the Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation and Beach resident Harry Gottlieb. Durrett was actually nominated as an individual, but MRTF collectively thought the selection should be the marina as a business.

On Wednesday night, at MRTF's monthly meeting, Town Environmental Sciences Coordinator Keith Laakkonen, the Town staff liaison to the committee, knew the recommendation decision process would be a tough one for the advisory board members.

"Those are going to be very difficult choices for the committee, because I do know all three of those folks do have an outstanding environmental reputation on this island," he said.

MRTF member Tree Andre made the recommendation to have Fish-Tale Marina nominated as a business instead of the owner as an individual.

"To look at an organization like Fish-Tale Marina, which is stepping up and above for the community, seems very worthy," she said "Each person and organization does a lot for the Beach."

Other MRTF members applauded Rodwell's work.

"I personally have a lot of experience with Jim Rodwell, and I know he is out in that preserve day and night," said MRTF acting chair Kerry Weeg. "He's like Mr. Matanzas Preserve."

"The effort that Jim Rodwell puts forth into the preserve is phenomenal," added Andre.

"When you go above and beyond, those are the people that should be rewarded," said MRTF member Ted Schindler.

Last year, Council chose the late Carleton Ryffel as the 2011 individual recipient, while the Estero Island Historical Society and Nature Center was selected as the 2011 nonprofit/organization recipient.

Ryffel, who passed away in 2011, was nominated by the Local Planning Agency, his former advisory board, on Sept. 13, 2011. Beach resident A.J. Bassett, the curator of EIHS, nominated the nonprofit organization.

Other past stewardship award winners include Carol Lis and Greg Boyd in 2010, the Island Sand Paper in 2008, Dennis and Doris Kovach in 2007 and Mary and Douglas Williamson and Kathleen and Randall Williamson in 2006.

MRTF looks at reviving the "beachscape" program

On Wednesday evening, committee member Bill Veach stated he would like to see the Beachscape program brought up again. The program involves voluntary plantings of sea oats and other non-evasive vegetation between Gulf front properties and mean high water line. Check page 3 for his guest commentary on the subject.

"I think we need to consider some of (Gulf front property owners) that it is in their own best interest to plant vegetation to protect their house and pretty large investment," said Veach, a beachfront property owner.

Beachfront properties along the northern-most mile of the Beach (north of Crescent Beach Family Park) had vegetation plantings installed after that portion of the beach was re-nourished just over a year ago.

"Those are starting to trap a little bit of sand now," said Town Environmental Sciences Coordinator Keith Laakkonen, the Town staff liaison to the committee. "The ones at Bowditch Point have benefitted the most. The amount of sand that has travelled through those areas are two to three feet tall. The north end would be useful for the beachscape program to show how minimal and what you can actually do with beach vegetation. It doesn't really create the dunes of Cape Cod."

It was stated that people who have removed dunes on their properties throughout the years are ones that tend to have the wrack line much closer to their homes and are susceptible to flooding. The beachscape program would be a selection process, according to Laakkonen.

"We could choose a property that would have the best benefit to the upland property owner and the public at large as well," he said.

MRTF had been idle for a year, but the committee is at full force now.

Live shelling a problem

It appears there needs to be more education about the illegalities of live shelling. It was reported that visitors are still collecting many species of sea shells while live inhabitants are still home.

According to MRTF's visitor information brochure, Florida law and local ordinance prohibit taking live shells from Florida waters. This includes starfish, sand dollars and sea urchins.

"There were live shells that were dumped underneath the sign at our beach access last night," said MRTF's Tree Andre. "It was very sad."

Adopt a Beach

MRTF members are encouraging community members to join the "Adopt a Beach" program, where residents take responsibility to police a stretch of beachfront. That would aid in the education process about live shelling as well as keeping the beachfront clean.

"There seems to be a lot of people who go out on the beach and pick up trash. It's one of the great things about the island - people who care about this," said Veach. "It shouldn't be hard to find good citizens to adopt a beach."

Brochure needs less words, more pics

Signage with less verbiage and more pictures would also benefit the beach overall, according to MRTF member Cristina Denegre who volunteered to help in the reworking of the MRTF brochure.

"I think the illustrative approach is really simple and it also cuts through language barriers," agreed Laakkonen.

MRTF's mission is "to stop further damage and to rehabilitate Estero Bay and its surrounding waters, including all wildlife, plant life, and air and water quality," while bringing Estero Bay, surrounding waters and the Estero Island shoreline "to the point that they will continue to be the driving force of our economy, sustaining the quality of life in cooperation with all whose livelihoods or lifestyles depend upon the health of Estero Bay."



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