Letters to the Editor

Manatee County ranks as almost litter free thanks to clean-ups, education

"Optics" is the new catchphrase in the media. Unintentional visual messages are as important as written or spoken content. "Optics" can easily compromise any intended message.

Manatee County promotes itself as a wonderful place to live and vacation. We pride ourselves on pristine beaches, scenic waterways, numerous parks, state-of-the-art recreational facilities, great golf courses and planned communities.

But what if the optics in Manatee County didn't support this message? What if trash pollutes our waterways, beaches, parks and recreational areas?

From the 1970s, I remember a public service announcement with a striking visual image of a Native American rowing a canoe to an ugly shoreline strewn with debris. Iron Eyes Cody shed a tear for the community's careless disregard for nature and the environment.

Since 1991, Keep Manatee Beautiful (KMB) has evaluated the effectiveness of Adopt-A-Highway, Road and Shore Programs in 15 geographical areas.

The trash and debris on public property and roadways is measured using a Litter Index with a simple four-point scale (1, no litter, to 4, extremely littered). Manatee County's overall Litter Index in 2014 is an outstanding 1.32 -- almost litter free. This validates the effectiveness of anti-littering education, KMB programs, Manatee County Solid Waste Code Enforcement and our community's environmental stewardship.

KMB programs and volunteers enhance the aesthetics and quality of life in Manatee County. Recently five Manatee beaches received Blue Wave certifications for cleanliness and healthiness: Anna Maria, Coquina, Cortez, Holmes and Manatee. This recognition helps the local economy by promoting Manatee County as an eco-friendly tourist destination with a clean coastal environment.

New volunteers are always welcome to participate in our Adopt-A-Shore Program or annual county wide cleanups: International Coastal Cleanup in October and Great American Cleanup in April. If Iron Eyes Cody rowed ashore here, he would not see the same "optics" as seen in the '70's.

Thomas P. Hovanec, Chairman, Keep Manatee Beautiful