On Sept. 1, Leslie Cox was shocked to see work crews using weed whackers to mow down sea oats on the dunes at Carrabelle Beach.
This spring, the Apalachicola Rotary Club had donated 10,000 sea oat seedlings to be planted on the dunes on St. George Island. Volunteers pitched in to plant them and, when the work was done, about 2,000 unplanted plants remained.
These seedlings were presented to Carrabelle Beach Park where they were installed by another group of volunteers headed by Cox.
Sea oats are protected under Florida Statute 161.242.which makes it illegal to “cut, harvest, remove, or eradicate” any of the grass commonly known as sea oats from any public land.
Sea oats are not protected because they are endangered; rather, they are a crucial component of the coastal ecosystem. Their fibrous root system binds the sand in the dunes and helps to fight coastal erosion. Signs posted at many Florida beaches warn against damaging sea oats and explain that even walking on the dunes can damage the natural barrier they present to storms.
Cox said she was horrified to observe a prison work crew walking over the dunes to level the newly planted sea oats. She said a dumpster was placed on the dunes without a pad, and heavy equipment used on the beach.
She returned later with a camera to document the damage.