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Keep Anclote Key Beautiful

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schessl |
Published Saturday, September 01, 2001

Keep Anclote BeautifulSomehow I knew this would not be your average overnight kayaking camping trip so I shouldn't have been surprised by the results. The wind was blowing from the east at 9-15 mph indicating the Gulf waters would be choppy. It was still October, which is a bit early in the season for camping and the mosquitoes would be fierce. I expected these things. However, when we arrived at our destination I was totally shocked.

On the morning of October 13, four of us piled into my kayak transporter ('95 Mercury + kayak trailer) and headed to the Anclote Gulf Park in Tarpon Springs, Florida. This is one of several launch points for the Anclote Key State Preserve. After loading the boats, we commenced to paddle due west for 3 1/2 miles to the north tip of Anclote Key. The water was bumpy and the trip took about 1/2 hour longer than expected, but we arrived unscathed.

During 2000, the Park Service built a picnic and camping area on the north side of the island. They installed a covered picnic area, a few grills and a permanent outhouse. Never having stopped there before, we decided this might make a convenient place for a quick snack. As we neared the beach, the first thing we noticed was a distinct smell of the outhouse. Moving up wind and toward the covered picnic area, we landed our boats and began unpacking lunch. As we walked toward the pavilion, we were quickly surrounded by mounds of trash. Not one or two beer bottles, it looked like someone recently played 1,000 bottles of beer on the wall. To add insult, several large black trash sacks had been ripped open and the contents now covered the landscape.

I was embarrassed as this was the first time two of our group had made the paddle to Anclote Key and I spent the past month telling them about Anclote's virtues. The volume of trash combined with the stench of the outhouse made the area disgusting and totally unusable. I'm sure this is not what the Park Service intended for this formerly pristine island and it appears the location has not been maintained for some time.

The rest of the trip was eventful as expected. More paddling, more trash. We found a spot about 3/4 mile from the picnic area to pitch our tents. The mosquitoes were as thick as molasses in January and sand occupied every part of our camping gear. On Sunday morning, I lost a pair of prescription glasses trying to help a boater re-float his 14' outboard that sank during the early morning hours. (Unsuccessful- had to call the Sheriff's Dept.). To finish it off, the winds picked up and a rainstorm hit us as we paddled back to Tarpon Springs. This will be a trip none of us forget for quite some time.

Keep paddling,

Ed Schessl

PS: You can help. After some quick research on the Internet, I found a group called the Gulf Islands Alliance. It is a Citizens Support Organization designated by the State of Florida and the Department of Environmental Protection. Their website mentions volunteer projects including park cleanup. Additionally, you can contact Anclote Key State Preserve, c/o Gulf Islands GEOpark, #1 Causeway Blvd., Dunedin, FL 34698, (813) 469-5918 and voice your concern. Thanks for your help and together, let's keep America (and Anclote Key) Beautiful.

Last update Friday, January 30, 2009

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