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JIM JONES COLUMN | The beach – it inspires and restores

There it was in all its splendor: the blue-green waters of Longboat Pass.

The sheer beauty of the place, along with the sound of gentle, rhythmic waves as the tide passed from Sarasota Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, and the gentle breeze seemed to lift any stress from my soul.

I’m certain that any vexation just flew straight out to sea, blasting right through the chute between Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key.

It had been too long since I had visited this spot.

It was early Friday morning, the start of the Independence Day holiday weekend, and a juvenile green turtle nicknamed “Mate” was being released into the wild after convalescing for several months at Mote Marine Laboratory.

Thanks, Mate, for getting me to the beach.

In watching the release, in this special place, there was a twinge of envy, too.

The folks on the beach — the surfers, the shellers, the Turtle Watch people, the beach bums and the anglers — knew how to live.

For whatever reason they were at the beach, a good part of it was surely to enjoy the feel of sand on bare feet, to breathe the fresh salt air, to get into that warm surf and to look at something that isn’t concrete and asphalt.

Let me ask you, when was the last time you picked up a rod and reel, walked on a beach or jumped into the surf?

If it’s been awhile, surely it’s not because it’s too far or it costs too much.

Even the fishing has gotten more affordable. As of July 1, fishing in the saltwater from the shore or a structure “affixed to the shore” is free for Florida residents. We still need a fishing license, but now it’s free, unless purchased online or over the telephone.

NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, had a bit of encouragement this week for our area in regards to the oil spill.

According to their models, much of the west coast of Florida has a low probability — 20 percent down to less than 1 percent — of getting hit by oil.

That bodes well for continued good health of our shores, and seems like an irresistible invitation for visitors from all over to come on down and enjoy the local hospitality and those heavenly beaches.

The beach is beautiful. No, I mean it’s really beautiful. But don’t take my word for it. The beach, good old time rock ’n’ roll, a cold beverage and a burger fresh off the grill.

Happy birthday, America!

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.

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