Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sea Oats Transplant Gives Vilano Beach Some Rehab; Volunteers Turn out in the Rain to Help Restore the Damaged Coastal Environment

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sea Oats Transplant Gives Vilano Beach Some Rehab; Volunteers Turn out in the Rain to Help Restore the Damaged Coastal Environment

Article excerpt

Byline: ADAM AASEN

ST. AUGUSTINE - A Saturday morning at the beach usually means tanning, swimming and volleyball.

For about 40 volunteers, it meant planting grass in the pouring rain in Vilano Beach.

The stormy weather didn't deter the dozens, though, as they worked to plant 60,000 sea oats to help rehabilitate the coastal environment.

Whether from beach erosion or dune buggies, the environment at Vilano Beach is damaged, said Tara Dodson, habitat conservation coordinator for the St. Johns County Beach Services.

To help fix this problem and comply with federal environmental regulations, the county has changed the path for riders and is working to replace the vegetation in the area, Dodson said.

The volunteers, which included elementary school kids through retirement age, came out to grab a tray full of sea oats and a big sludgy bucket of gel polymer, a slimy gel which is a slow watering agent. With this gel, the grass will be watered for around a month.

Sea oats, a type of saltwater beach grass found on the East Coast, helps keep the sand in place and protect the environment of the state-threatened least tern, a bird found in the Vilano Beach area. The least tern burrows its nest in the sand, making it a likely victim of dune buggies.

Dodson said people should be concerned about protecting the beach environment and its wildlife because it's important to maintain species diversity.

"Everybody enjoys nature and one day when it's not there anymore, people are going to say 'we should have listened,' " she said.

Leigh Daniels of St. Augustine volunteered with her 15-year-old son, Cassidy, because she said she wants the dunes to be there to help protect beach homes from storms and protect the sea turtles' habitat.

Shane Williams, 13, a seventh-grader at Gamble Rogers Middle School, volunteered with his father, Dale Williams, special projects manager for St. …

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