Just go to the beach.
That’s what a friend suggested after a particularly tough day last week — an option we’re lucky to have so near but too often forget.
The view from our bench facing that endless stretch of crystal clear water and bright white sand can magically soothe what ails, from headaches to heartache.
Those simple words of wisdom have faced enormous challenges in the weeks since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded. Our slice of heaven, better known as Anna Maria Island, has been spared the tar balls and oil sheen from the BP disaster — so far. And the news that the leak may have been stopped can only better our odds that our beaches are safe.
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But our beach community has still been traumatized by the ecological disaster. The perception from afar is fearful, at best. No one can predict the long-term effect. And that, local hoteliers and tourism officials say, may severely damage our draw to thousands of visitors — especially tourists from Europe, who make their plans months, even years in advance.
So business owners and chamber leaders are on the offensive. And the best weapon is reality: Take a look at our beaches. They’re beautiful. The old adage that a picture says a thousand words rings very true right now.
That’s why we’re turning up the volume of that message in the Bradenton Herald and on Bradenton.com. We owe it to our community to get the word out, loud and clear.
We’ll continue to carry the extensive daily coverage of the oil spill being produced by our staff and other dedicated McClatchy reporters. Starting today, however, we’re pairing that with “Our Manatee Beaches.”
We hope you bookmark www.Bradenton.com/ourbeach for daily visits. Each week, we’ll focus on a key area along our shoreline, with stunning photographs and picture galleries by the Herald’s photojournalists. Our first stop is the public beach, with photos by Grant Jefferies.
Every day, we’ll update the site with news from Anna Maria Island:
n Water temp and quality
n Surf conditions
n 24-hour forecast
n Upcoming beach activity
n Turtle nesting
n Beachgoer’s soundbite
n Tar measured: ZERO!!
You’ll also find an easy-to-use spot to upload your photos from the beach — the more images, the better. This is your page, your community — your beach.
We’re borrowing one of the best aspects from three island resorts: webcams showing real-time beach scenes. These entrepreneurs want to do everything possible to save our island’s image.
After all, AMI is often recognized as among the best — including the “Best Quaint Island” by one national magazine, notes David Teitelbaum, president of Anna Maria Island Resorts. It’s an amazing balance of residents and tourists. And of all the wonderful attributes he hears from visitors, my favorite is this: “How wonderful to do nothing!”
Eric Carnes, manager of Cedar Cove Resort, has known the value of a webcam for quite a while. They launched it 10 years ago for their guests, who love to taunt their friends and families when it’s grey, gloomy and icy back home.
At the end of the day, it’s really about the island as our home. As Sean Murphy, owner of the Beach Bistro, points out, many of us made a life choice to live here because of the blue water and white sand. And at some level, we all fear this will change.
But until that day — and it may never arrive — we all can do everything possible to protect that beauty and champion our slice of heaven.
Joan Krauter, Herald executive editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 941-748-0411, ext. 2000.