Annual Sister Keys Cleanup

Suncoast Waterkeeper (SCWK) is pleased to announce that Samantha (Sam) Gentrup, joined the organization on Monday, March 1, 2021 as the Executive Director.  Gentrup comes to Suncoast Waterkeeper with an extensive background in education and grassroots environmental movements. After almost two decades of empowering children and young adults to use their skills and passion to make a difference in the world, Sam is excited to make environmental activism her primary focus.  Gentrup has been a public speaker, grassroots co-leader, environmental speech writer, and organizer for local and statewide events. Her passion centers on raising awareness about the challenges that face the regions fragile marine ecosystems. Gentrup understands the interconnectivity of the issues that face the Suncoast, and will bring passion and energy to Suncoast Waterkeeper’s environmental protection movement.  

  Gentrup will be participating in Sarasota Bay Watch’s (SBW) Annual Sister Keys Cleanup this Saturday, March 6, 2021.  Suncoast Waterkeeper (SCWK) is teaming up with Sarasota Bay Watch this year and in the future on this longstanding event. The cleanup is a collaboration with Town of Longboat Key and the Chiles Group. The event will kick off starting with registration at 8:00 AM on the bayfront at the Mar Vista Restaurant at 760 Broadway Street, Longboat Key. Volunteers will work for four hours on the island and around the mangrove fringes collecting trash and recyclable items. 

The Sister Keys were originally slated for development in the early 60’s and were once again threatened in 1989 when they went on sale for one million dollars. That spurred a group of citizens to form the Sister Keys Conservancy in an attempt to buy and preserve the islands as a nature preserve. The Town purchased the islands in 1994 with a stipulation that the keys would never be developed.  The islands underwent a million-dollar mitigation in 2007 that removed all invasive species, planted native flora and created a two-acre wetland. 

The Longboat Key Marine division will be patrolling the intercoastal waterway to slow boaters. Kayakers and those without a boat will be ferried to the island by volunteers. Larry Beggs, owner of Reef Innovations Inc. will once again help the effort with a barge where volunteers can off load their trash.  

   This year, due to the pandemic, a light box lunch will be served, courtesy of the Mar Vista Restaurant.  Anyone not willing to mask for the event or those who are still uncomfortable with groups can still participate during the following week.  Through an arrangement with Longboat Key Public Works, volunteers can do a cleanup on their own and deposit bags at the town dock for pickup between March 6 and March 14, 20121.  Registration is required, participants can sign up on the Sarasota Bay Watch web site www.sarasotabaywatch.org.

    The Sister Keys Clean Up is just one of many projects that SBW is involved in. In 2020 SBW planted over 750,000 clams in the bay in an ongoing restoration effort. Other cleanups are conducted at various locations throughout the bay as well as an annual monofilament cleanup and much more. 

    Suncoast Waterkeeper is a Sarasota based advocacy non-profit committed to protecting and restoring Florida Suncoast’s waterways through enforcement, fieldwork, advocacy and environmental education for the benefit of the communities that rely upon these precious coastal resources. Their efforts have been responsible for major initiatives that hold municipalities responsible to mandates established in the landmark 1982 Clean Water Act. SCWK also conducts bi-monthly water testing of inland coastal waters. For more information on their mission go to  www.suncoastwaterkeeper.org.