National coverage of algae crisis raising awareness of problem, but creating other problems

Posted at 5:47 AM, Jul 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-08 05:47:18-04

The algae crisis in the Treasure Coast has recently garnered international attention.

While residents agree the news coverage has been successful at raising awareness for the problem, they say it's also created another problem.

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Local business owners say the news has caused some tourists to cancel their reservations to hotels in the Treasure Coast.

"Somebody was going to stay at the end of July for four days. They called, they've seen all this negative coverage," said Steven Vitale, owner of the Old Colorado Inn in downtown Stuart.

Vitale is trying to remain optimistic despite the concerns, especially since the cancellation happened during the slower summer months.

He said there is a lot for tourists to enjoy in the area, even if they can't enjoy the water.

"We have a beautiful boardwalk that meanders the river. There's beautiful little shops and quaint restaurants and museums down here. There's a lot to do here that somebody would enjoy a vacation in Stuart," Vitale said.

Joe Catrambone, president of the Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce, isn't as optimistic.

He said the Fourth of July holiday weekend may be a sign of what's to come.

"It was like a ghost town here on July Fourth," he said.

The chamber sent out a poll to more than a thousand local businesses to find out how much money businesses have lost this year due to the algae.

Catrambone hopes that President Barack Obama will approve the governor's request to declare a state of emergency so that businesses can receive federal money.

Vitale agrees.

"I was disappointed that the governor didn't come down here personally to see the damage, but I am happy to see that he did write the president and declared a state of emergency and asked the president to step up to the plate and help us," Vitale said.

He said the algae issue is something that presidential candidates need to be aware of.

"Florida is a key state. This is affecting not only our coast on the east coast here in Stuart but it's also affecting the west coast.Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump need to pay attention to this and whoever wins needs to help resolve this issue," Vitale said.

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