Meet the Beaches Working Towards A New Eco-Award
Beaches, marinas, and tourism boat operators around the world are recognized for supporting sustainable development through environmental education by applying annually for the Blue Flag award offered by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). Blue Flag is one of five programs offered by FEE and administered by members in each country. The program promotes environmental education and information; environmental management; safety and services; social responsibility; and responsible tourism in 48 countries with over 5000 sites. Awarded sites must meet over 30 criteria annually reviewed by National and International Juries for compliance.
The FEE member administering the program in the continental United States, Alaska, and Hawaii is the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA). ASBPA completed the steps for implementation in a new country in 2020 and started working with beach sites in 2021. These sites are now preparing for their first full applications and awards. Learn more about what makes each site unique and where you should look for a Blue Flag beach in 2023.
Delray Beach, Florida
Delray Beach is a coastal city, affectionately known as “Village by the Sea” and is home to over 70,000 residents and 3.2 million visitors a year. The City of Delray Beach maintains the beach by providing a balance of services that improve the environmental health of the ecosystem while providing a safe recreational amenity for residents and visitors. Delray Beach is currently working toward receiving the Blue Flag Award designation.
Management of the beach includes annual surveys of the beach profile to ensure that we are maintaining minimum beach widths, daily sea turtle nest monitoring during season, daily beach raking and trash cleanup and semi-annual dune maintenance.
One of the ways in which the City has chosen to provide the public with accessible environmental information has been through the education of their unique natural dune system. This includes the implementation of QR codes on informational boards located near the dunes, showcasing video and web content to further educate the public the restoration and maintenance of the dunes, as well as the proper treatment of the dunes when visiting the beach.
The vegetated dune system acts as a natural barrier against storm surge, high waves, and extreme weather. Without the dunes, the surrounding area would become vulnerable to flooding. The Delray Beach’s dunes, however, have not always been as dense with plant life as they are today. In fact, they were once on the verge of extinction due to neglect in favor of development. To combat this, restoration programs were implemented by the city in the 1980s to keep the dunes intact. Presently, replanting and trimming is done regularly to ensure the ecosystem remains balanced with the proper native plant species.
With an array of educational initiatives underway, the City of Delray Beach hopes to instill an appreciation for the City’s most distinctive natural landmark, while working toward the goal of earning the prestigious Blue Flag Award.
East Beach, Galveston Texas
While Galveston Island may be known for its bustling Seawall, iconic amusement piers, and old-world charm, this southeast Texas destination is also a place of respite and refuge. Tucked on the eastern tip of the island, East Beach spans more than 100 acres along the Gulf of Mexico as a quiet oasis – a sanctuary centered on the enjoyment and respect of nature. Here, you can search for seashells and learn about the coastal environment while on a nature walk with the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council, or go on a “Bucket Brigade,” collecting natural treasures while learning on a free, interactive beach tour. Birding enthusiasts can spot many of the 300 bird species that migrate annually through Galveston while at East Beach, which is also home to a bird sanctuary developed in partnership with the American Bird Conservancy.
Adjacent to East Beach, visitors can wander through tranquil nature trails or go kayaking at the East End Lagoon & Nature Preserve. This lush, 685-acre nature preserve features a recreational lagoon as well as interpretive signage to guide visitors through the preserve. It also will soon break ground on a new, open-air pavilion.
As part of East Beach’s educational programing, visitors can catch environmental talks throughout the year, including seasonal “Women in Coastal Science” lecture series.
East Beach offers convenient amenities, including a pavilion, entertainment stage, restrooms and showers, a children’s playground, snacks and adult beverages. It is also host to annual events, like the American Institute of Architects’ annual Sandcastle Competition and the Gulf Coast Volleyball Association Tournament Series. In keeping with Galveston’s commitment to responsible and sustainable coastal management, events are limited at the beach park to protect the natural habitat.
East Beach and the East End Lagoon & Nature Preserve are managed by the Galveston Park Board, an award-winning coastal zone management and tourism organization committed to sustainable use and protection of Galveston’s natural resources. The achievement of a Blue Flag Award would confirm that the practices, policies, and programming created for East Beach align with the Park Board’s vision to offer a pristine beach for residents, visitors and wildlife. The Blue Flag award helps to set a benchmark for quality standards and programming, which are especially important in a sensitive habitat like the east end of Galveston Island. This award highlights the quality of Galveston beaches and ensures accountability and a standard of excellence.
For more information on East Beach and Galveston Island, go to VisitGalveston.com.