BRADENTON BEACH -- The BeachHouse restaurant has cancelled its July 3 fireworks display in an effort to help protect nesting birds on Anna Maria Island.
"It has been cancelled after careful consideration for the well-being of a population of black skimmers and lesser terns, rare species of migrating shore birds known to be nesting on north end of the BeachHouse property," wrote Megan Brewster of Aqua Marketing & Communications Inc.
Ed Chiles, owner of the Chiles Restaurant Group Owner, came to the decision after consulting with a number of people, including Bradenton Beach Mayor Jack Clarke, Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker and Suzi Fox, executive director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring.
"We decided that the risk of disturbing the terns and skimmers or, worse, uprooting them from their nests was one we were not willing to take," Chiles said in a written statement. "We know that our Independence Day fireworks celebrations have been popular among members of our community for over 20 years but the well-being of these rare and endangered shore birds needs to come first."
The fireworks display would have been the 22nd
Annual BeachHouse Fireworks Spectacular.
Clarke said the fireworks would definitely disturb and possibly destroy the birds' nesting area.
"We're trying to keep it 'Old Florida' and there is a point to which the environment as personified by the flora and fauna does have precedence over the island as a tourist destination," he said Monday afternoon.
Clarke also mentioned nesting sea turtles and said they don't need any more disruption than they're already getting.
Bradenton Beach Commissioner Jan Vosburgh, who said she watches the restaurant's fireworks display from a chair across the street from her house, said it was nice of Chiles to put on the display for the community.
Fox, AMITW Executive Director, said she is proud of the BeachHouse Restaurant for taking the high road with the organization.
"They know how important these birds are, and they've been watching them with us," Fox said.
The advocate for sea turtles and shorebirds said the organization thought there wouldn't be chicks yet by the July 4 holiday weekend but were pleasantly surprised.
"When we found that we were going to have chicks running around, it kind of changes the whole ball game," Fox said. "The BeachHouse staff understood how important it is that we protect these baby chicks."
Fox said there are bird colonies at two big dune areas by the restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N. and in the area of 27th Street North. She described the efforts to protect the birds by both her organization and the restaurant as teamwork.
"This is a happy day," she said.
"It's a happy day for a whole bunch of reasons. ... Little birds that have no voice now have a big voice."
Island visitors and residents can see a fireworks show July 4 at the Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria.
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.