PALM RIVER — Little by little, Ola Lott and her band of community volunteers have been planting seeds for a fresh beginning in the Green Ridge and Delaney Creek Estates communities.
And little by little, Hillsborough County has been helping to sew them.
The community activists have traveled their neighborhoods and photographed potholes, overgrown canal banks, cluttered yards and deserted, boarded-up houses they see as a blight on their community, south of Palm River Road and east of 78th Street.
Behind them, the county's code enforcement and roads departments have come in to fill the potholes and mow the overgrown canal banks.
Now, they say, it's time for residents to step up.
The volunteers with the Green Ridge and Delaney Creek Neighborhood Crime Watch Association see the new year as prime time for a neighborhood clean sweep. From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, they plan just that. They are hoping more than the “faithful few” will participate, said Mary Jones, the group's secretary.
“The issue has been a lack of interest,” Jones said. “We have a lot of renters and they don't tend to have that same sense of community. We have to set the example. The faithful few can show the others that what we are doing is a good thing for all of us.”
Lott, president of the crime watch association, worked with Wanda Sloan in the county's Office of Neighborhood Relations to procure a $775 grant that will pay to have five trash bins placed in the community for the cleanup. She got the boards of two local churches — Word Alive Church at 1024 S. 78th St. and East Tampa Christian Church at 7824 24th Ave. S. — to allow use of their properties as drop-off points and is organizing volunteers to man the five trash bins.
She said Hillsborough Commissioner Les Miller and employees of the county's Code Enforcement and Public Works departments all have helped get the community in better shape, as has Community Resources Deputy Izzy Roquemore of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. But there still is more to do.
“Most of what I see is abandoned, boarded-up homes and houses where the residents may not have easy access to a Dumpster,” said Roquemore, who works in the area regularly. “This clean-up, the cohesiveness of everyone working together, should help morale” in the community, she said.
“We've got yards full of clutter and a house that's been boarded up for six years,” Lott said. When she and other volunteers sent photographs, the county was on it in a matter of days, she said.
“Code Enforcement has 185 houses in our community they've targeted for clean-up and most have been cited,” Lott said. But getting action sometimes takes time.
“We really do have a nice community,” Lott said. “ But there are a few streets with a lot of problems.”
The clean-up will focus on the area east of 78th Street to Tidewater Trail and Fishlake Road and from Destin Drive to the north, south to 24th Avenue.
No chemicals will be accepted and lawn debris must be placed in a specified trash bin, according to rules set up by the county. Anyone bringing refuse to the bins must show identification — a tax receipt or a driver license with a current address — because the cleanup targets a specific area, Lott said.
“We can't get nothing done if we don't work as a unit,” she said. Fliers went out Saturday to notify people about the clean-up. In addition to the churches, trash bins will be placed at Tidewater Trail and Fishlake Road, at Ridein Road and Windsor Way, and at Tidewater Trail and Windsor Way.