Leave Only Footprints: A Visitor's Perspective
We all have to do our own part to take care of our beaches and the other residents who call these beaches home, even if only for a short while.
When I was a teenager, I loved going to the beach with my mom and sister. We had an annual girls’ beach getaway that consisted of hanging out on the beach all day and heading out for a great dinner each night. Back then, my beach gear consisted of an old quilt, a beach towel, some magazines and my sunscreen. Today, though, when vacationing along the Alabama Gulf Coast with my two kids, that has changed a bit. Instead of the old quilt, I bring a collapsible chair.
Maybe I haven’t changed my beach gear much in the last decade or so, but many others have. Today when I head to the beaches along the Alabama Gulf Coast, it’s not uncommon to see families push carts filled to overflowing with beach tents, folding chairs, beach toys, towels and more. While that’s a bit much for me, I do love seeing the colorful tents dot the sand, especially when gazing at them from the balcony of my beach condo.
And while this new breed of beach gear certainly makes a sunny vacation more enjoyable, it also can cause harm to the beach’s other residents if not removed every day. For example, the sea turtles that arrive along the Alabama Gulf Coast to nest every May through October may find it difficult to navigate through the maze of tents, chairs and trash left behind by beachgoers. Likewise, their hatchlings also may have difficulty making their way to the water when it comes time to join their sea families.
That’s why the Leave Only Footprints rules and regulations were implemented in 2016. Per these rules, beachgoers are to remove all structures and equipment from the beach no later than one hour after sunset. Otherwise, these items will be removed and disposed of by beach patrol. Unfortunately, many visitors are not heeding these new regulations and last year, the beach patrol still removed 18 tons of metal tent frames and chairs from the beaches.