LEE COUNTY, FLA. - No oil from the 2010 BP spill touched Southwest Florida beaches, but the area still felt the impact with a drop in tourism. Now some local organizations are getting help through grant money.
One of them is the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. Every year, tourists from around the world flock to the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.
"Just to come here and see nature at its best," said one tourist. But after the 2010 BP spill, the amount of visitors at Ding Darling dropped about 11 percent and they've never fully recovered.
"I'd say we're down almost 5 to 7 percent still from when that spilled," said Bergie Vertesch, Exec. Dir. of the Ding Darling Wildlife Society.
So, the Ding Darling Wildlife Society requested a grant from the Gulf Tourism and Seafood Promotional Fund. That's a fund established by BP and Plaintiffs Steering Committee in the Deepwater Horizon Economic Loss and Property Damages Settlement.
Now, the wildlife society is approved to get $60,000 that will go to promoting the refuge. "From magazines, to social media, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube videos, we're looking at an animated video as well!" said Vertesch.
Even though oil didn't touch these beaches it's estimated the county lost almost a million dollars in bed tax revenue after the spill. And even today? It's hard to calculate the overall impact. But there's good news for the county's Visitor Convention Bureau as well.
It's getting half a million dollars to promote the county's white sandy beaches.
"I'm thrilled and I congratulate those folks," said Sylvia Seaver, who is visiting Sanibel for the first time.
The city of Naples and Marco Island are also grant recipients, as well as the Collier County Department of Natural Resources.