Ambassadors hit the beach in Santa Rosa

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NAVARRE — The Santa Rosa County UF/IFAS Extension Office is seeking volunteers to promote safe practices on Navarre Beach.

A handful of volunteers participated in the Navarre Beach Ambassador training Wednesday to learn how to be good stewards of Florida’s Most Relaxing Place.

“This program serves two purposes,” said Katie Boole, a University of Florida student interning with the extension office through the summer. “It’s promoting the area and promoting ways to protect the environment. It gives visitors the chance to take away something they didn’t know before.”

The Navarre Beach Ambassador program is set to begin Monday. Wearing laminated IDs on lanyards to designate themselves as ambassadors, volunteers will be on hand to educate visitors about the nesting shorebirds, sea turtles and beach flag safety, and promote local attractions such as the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center and the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier.

Ambassadors will not serve as code enforcers, but will remind guests about rules and regulations such as Leave No Trace.  The point is to be helpful, Boole said.

“Visitors aren’t really coming to the beach to get a lesson,” she said. “People want to relax and enjoy their vacation, so you don’t want to take up too much of their time.”

The program also is meant to encourage visitors to return to Navarre Beach. Ambassadors will conduct short surveys with guests to gain more insight to the tourist demographic and hand out promotional items such as koozies and inflatable beach balls. The information will be used by the county’s Tourism Development office.

Dave Barker, also known as Kayak Dave, is a longtime resident who helped launch the ambassador program. He was encouraged that people took the time out of their day to sign up.

“Navarre Beach is a special place, and we have a eco-friendly niche you can’t find in other areas along the coast,” Barker said. “I hope it stays that way.”

Korri Bindl is visiting Navarre Beach from Austin, Texas, this summer to work with Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center. She met the center’s volunteers while working with sea turtles in Mexico.

“They told me how sea turtle-friendly it was here,” she said. “I’ve only been here three days and I’ve learned so much.”

Educating people about the environment is not part of a typical summer vacation, but Bindl said it makes her experience better.

“I really like educating people and seeing the look on their faces when they learn something new,” she said. “Seeing the community reach out is inspiring.”

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