Vacation with a Purpose in Miami

Volunteer at Cape Florida.

Volunteer to cleanup Cape Florida, Key Biscayne.

Eco tourism and volunteer tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel market. Vacation and volunteer in sunny Miami at “Baynanza” on April 16. Join thousands of volunteers who gather to clean up the Biscayne Bay. “Baynanza” is the highlight of Miami’s month-long environmental celebration.

A couple of years ago I joined a group of volunteers for a trip to Henry Flagler Monument Island near South Beach. After a hearty and healthy breakfast courtesy of Whole Foods, we began our journey. We departed by speedboat from Maurice Gibbs Park for Monument Island. A few souls braved the bay on kayaks donated by South Beach Kayak.

View of Monument Island.

View of Monument Island.

At Monument Island, Ecocom’s Luis Rodrigues talked about the impact of plastics on our environment. I learned that plastics are photodegradable. Even when plastic disintegrates into smaller pieces it attracts other chemicals and contaminates the water and disrupts the food chain. The tiniest piece of plastic makes a huge impact because it is consumed more easily by wild life. As we trekked through the island, we found an abundance of trash like sanitary items, Styrofoam cups, paper plates, liquor bottles, Styrofoam blocks, etc. By the end of the venture, we filled 40 bags!

Pioneer statue

“Pioneer” Statue surveying the Island.

During the outing, I must confess to taking a few snapshots of the memorial to Henry Flagler. The monument had four statues—Pioneer, Education, Industry, and Prosperity—representing what I consider the four pillars of Flagler’s character. A Standard oil tycoon, Flagler, built a railroad from Jacksonville to Key West to transport the rich and famous. Not only a man of great wealth but also of great generosity and vision, Flagler built schools and churches along Florida’s east coast. His legacy as the Father of Florida tourism continues today in the Sunshine state.

Biscayne Bay is a lagoon approximately 35 miles long. In 1975, the bay was designated as a Florida aquatic preserve. A second preserve was soon added off of Cape Florida on Key Biscayne. These two preserves are now managed by the state under the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserves. For more information, visit http://www.miamidade.gov/environment/baynanza.asp

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