This locally-owned beach hotel and resort does more than offer visitors a tropical getaway in the Florida Keys; they support the mission to save our reefs, and they give their guests the opportunity to do the same!
Glunz Ocean Beach Hotel & Resort provides educational material for visitors to learn more about Coral Restoration Foundation™ and how they can get involved during their time in the Keys and beyond. Guests also have the chance to donate to CRF™ on their check-in form.
We talked with Heather Lewis, General Hotel Manager of Glunz Ocean Beach Hotel & Resort, about her passion for the ocean and her childhood in the Florida Keys.
What is your earliest memory of the ocean?
I've lived here in the Florida Keys my entire life (43 years). I grew up in Grassy Key, and I can remember my father taking my sister and I to the sandbars in Valhalla to walk and explore sea life. We would find many conch shells, starfish, horseshoe crabs, black spiny sea urchin and bone fish.
What is your favorite marine creature?
I love dolphins and turtles, but I'd have to say my favorite would be the Whale Shark because they are so beautiful, unbelievably large and gentle.
Have you experienced a healthy coral reef ecosystem? If so where, and how did it make you feel?
Yes! Sombrero Reef and Looe Key Reef many, many years ago. I felt like I was in another world. It absolutely took my breath away seeing so many beautiful colors and creatures of the sea.
Have you seen a badly degraded reef system? How did that make you feel?
Yes. Unfortunately the reefs are not what they use to be, and it makes me sad to see our marine life becoming so colorless and limited.
What concerns or scares you the most about climate change?
What scares me is that eventually the beauty and life that our reefs once had will be completely gone and how horrible that would be for all marine creatures as they need a home too.
Why do you, personally, care about coral reefs?
They're beautiful. They provide so much life and homes for sea creatures, filter our ocean and protect our shorelines.
Why is protecting and restoring coral reefs relevant to your brand?
We are a private resort with 400 feet of white sand beach that enters right into the Atlantic Ocean. It is very important to us that our coral reefs are protected and restored because:
We have already lost so much of our coast line due to high winds, tropical storms and hurricanes. If protected and restored, it would help not only our beach but many others that are being washed away.
Having our marine life protected with shelter and their natural habitats would help our coral reefs grow into a beautiful location for all to explore and respect it's importance.
Why should the average person care about coral reefs?
It's where we get a huge supply of our food from! If fish don't have a healthy place to spawn, they will eventually die off and there will be no more.
In your opinion, what are some of the most powerful tools at our disposal that we can apply to the mission to save coral reefs?
People. We need to come together as a community by putting up signs of support, adding more trash cans, and organizing clean-ups along the coast line. We need more Coast Guard and FWC officials enforcing the laws by patrolling the sandbars, dive spots and fisherman.
What do you think are some of the easiest ways that the average person can join the mission to save coral reefs from extinction?
Beach clean-ups! I already see people taking action by volunteering to pick up trash out of the mangroves and along the seashore. Also, stop taking and abusing coral in the ocean. Respect that it's there for a reason, and it's working to detoxify our oceans.
Do you think there is hope for our coral reefs? Why?
I want to say yes, and I want to hope for yes. It took many years to slowly destroy our coral reefs so it's going to take many years to get it back to the way it use to be. With that being said, we need strong-minded, educated and dedicated people that will take this matter seriously. We also need to donate funds to help protect and restore our coral reefs.