The Protecting Our Beaches and Waterways event is set for February 3, and virtual registrations are still available.
On February 3, representatives from coastal towns, community organizations, environmental groups, realty and construction companies and others will gather to discuss how to keep the local beaches and waterways clean. The event, Protecting Our Beaches and Waterways, will be held at the Assembly Building in Surf City, from 11:30 am to 1 pm.
Steve Smith, Topsail Beach mayor and the chair of the Topsail Island Shoreline Protection Commission (TISPC), spearheaded the idea of a community event that would spread a positive message to residents and visitors alike. The February 3 event is a collaborative effort of the TISPC, Greater Topsail Area Chamber of Commerce and Pender County Tourism.
Smith says that his work with the TISPC has enabled him to have conversations with various groups about the impact that plastic is having on the coastline. As a result of those conversations as well as what everyone was seeing on a daily basis, Smith says it “looked like it was time to raise an awareness within the Topsail shoreline and the municipalities.” They determined that having a luncheon event would be a good way to reach the stakeholders in the Topsail Island area, to start the education process.
Pender County Tourism Director Tammy Proctor agrees with Smith that education and a positive message are the main goals of the February 3 event. “We are collaboratively bringing everybody together for one purpose, keeping our beaches clean,” she says. “It is encouraging to see all the different facets coming together.”
Proctor and Smith are on the planning committee, along with North Topsail Beach Alderman and TISPC member Mike Benson; Greater Topsail Area Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Tammie Parris and Director Karen Burton; Treasure Realty Marketing Director and Topsail Chamber Board Member Scott Franko; N.C. Coastal Federation Coastal Advocate Kerri Allen; and representatives from Topsail Beach, Surf City and North Topsail Beach.
The panel discussion, which will encourage input from all the participants, will feature Kerri Allen; Heidi Walters with Visit NC, who spearheaded the Outdoor NC development; and Kathy Zagzebski, executive director of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.
Maintaining clean, plastic-free beaches and waterways is critical for the health, safety and well-being of all residents and visitors, including those being cared for at the turtle rescue center in Surf City. Turtles love Topsail Island. In the months between May and October, in particular, sea turtles return to the island to lay their eggs for the next generation of loggerheads loving the area.
Turtles, birds and other island animals do not always know the difference between plastic and food. Plastic bags look just like a jellyfish to a turtle swimming in the sea, for example. One of the positive messages conveyed at the February 3 event and in educational efforts planned afterwards, will be to protect precious wildlife by keeping the beaches and waterways clean for all to enjoy.
Smith emphasizes that it’s also important to understand that not all plastic is recyclable. He sees the February 3 event as an opportunity to educate all area stakeholders, including local restaurants and other businesses, about the need to use materials that are more environmentally friendly.
Plans for education going forward include the distribution of a poster that is unique for Topsail Island. The message will be positive and focused on keeping the shores clean and pristine.
“We want to take a positive approach in terms of asking people to do things,” Smith says. “It’s about how to make it even better for the future.”
Other educational efforts will include messages on the Topsail Chamber’s app, podcasts that will involve discussions with key players and other platforms targeting both residents and visitors.
Proctor says she is thrilled with the response to this first-time event. She indicates that 85 people have already registered and, in the interest of maintaining everyone’s health and safety, she will take additional registrations for participation remotely. To register to attend virtually and to access the Zoom link, email Stephanie Key with Pender County Tourism at email@example.com.
Want to attend?
Protecting Our Beaches and Waterways
Thursday, February 3
11:30 am to 1:30 pm
Virtual registration is available at firstname.lastname@example.org