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Beach etiquette 4-1-1

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A day at the beach is a treasured treat for all of us, whether you're here for a day, a week, or a lifetime. And by the way....if you live near the beach, it's not so easy to take a stroll in the sand every day. Unlike vacation time, reality time with its' responsibilities and work schedules can make it difficult to get that beach fix satisfied every day, sadly.

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One thing is for sure, whether you're a local or a visitor to our beaches, we all like them to be the best experience possible while sharing the sand with a couple hundred other beach lovers. Or a several hundred!

Beach rules are posted at every public entrance to the beach. You'll see that trash must be contained, among other rules. Many beach goers do not realize the fragile ecosystem of coastal beaches. In Maine we have the endangered Piping Plovers, but we also have thousand of birds, fish, seals, even shellfish that are affected by hazards and chemicals in man made products.

The attached slide show from a late afternoon Maine beach walk on a sunny Saturday in early June, is evidence of the intrusion we humans are to our own natural environment and the food we eat from the sea. It wasn't especially hot that day, there would have been plenty of available sand for a person to plunk down their chair or blanket. Therefore, it's reasonable to think that it would be easy enough to see any trash or personal items you might be leaving behind, when it's time to pack up for the ride home. Unfortunately, what was found was disappointing, as Maine beaches go. The following is a small list that was found: There were food containers and wrappers, plastic grocery bags, disposable coffee cups, beach towels, a flip flop, a COOKED- I repeat COOKED lobster carcass, beer cans and plastic bags mixed in with sea weed from the retreating high tide. That might be mild compared to certain other coastal beaches in America, but it won't cut it for a Maine beach. We are vacationland after all, and there are trash cans placed at every public exit point from our beaches.

It's unusual to see debris on our Maine coastal beaches. Many avid beach fans pick up items left behind, because they understand what will become of the results of others' careless acts. Trash and plastic will blow in the wind. It will either end up in the ocean or in the protected sand dunes. Plastic bags have been found around many dead and dying fish, seals, and other aquatic sea life, even miles from the shoreline where they most likely escaped from. Plastic has been found in the nests of coastal birds and water fowl, even condors and eagles, whose diet includes plenty of fish. So, we can see that containing our trash and food items is just common sense.

You may not see other common sense behavior rules on that sign, but we are all responsible for how our behavior affects others in our close proximity. A little common courtesy goes pretty far at the beach:

-If it's a hot crowded day at the beach, perhaps smokers could step away from the crowds before lighting up. And, contrary to the belief of cigar smokers, the smoke does not dissipate quickly in the outdoor air. Please never leave cigarette butts at the beach.

-If you've brought music with you to the beach, please take a moment to consider if the volume is meant only for your listening enjoyment. The group next to you might have their own music, or they might be relaxing with a good book.

-If you have small children who've been out in the sun and wind, they may be having so much fun that they have a hard time winding down for some quiet time. A great product to help parents are beach tents. They can also be great for anyone who's had a little too much sun, or is fair skinned.

-If you've brought a football, Frisbee, or baseball and glove with you to the beach, make sure there's enough room for you to play safely. You'd feel horrible is anyone got hurt.

All in all, we're a great bunch of beach lover's in Southern Maine. With miles of the white sandy stuff, how could we not be?

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