The cleanup of homeless camps in a wooded area near a West Hillsborough Avenue church has netted 3,000 pounds of debris, a joint effort of Hillsborough County agencies and volunteers.
Part of the Hillsborough County Code Enforcement’s “Operation Fight the Blight” that concluded Wednesday focused on a wooded area between First Reformed Church, 8283 W. Hillsborough Ave., and a public park.
Operation Fight the Blight launched in Town ‘N Country on May 1, when roll-off containers were placed next to Wood Lake Park, staffed by code enforcement personnel to accept appliances, furniture, electronics, household junk and other debris. The collection targeted collections from residents of neighborhoods between West Waters Avenue and Memorial Highway and between Sheldon Road and Timberlane Drive.
Nine Town ’N Country Youth Council volunteers and members of the group’s adult board were among the 20-plus participants in Saturday’s separate cleanup of homeless campsites.
Rob Gamester, co-founder of the youth group, said items collected in the three-hour effort included mattresses, box springs, tarps, tents, televisions, wooden pallets, tires big and small “and all sorts of carpet.” One of the most unusual items uncovered: a Texaco gasoline sign, about 5-by-7 feet, he said.
Many shopping carts were also collected for return to the appropriate retail stores.
“We have participated in the Great American Cleanup since our inception in 2002,” but this was the youth group’s first debris removal effort of this type, he said. “We looked at this as a community thing.”
Also partnering in the public/private partnership effort was First Reformed Church Pastor Dave Hubbart, Hillsborough sheriff’s deputies and county workers.
Bill Langford, a county Code Enforcement manager who oversees the agency’s countywide special enforcement unit, said Saturday’s cleanup netted 1.5 tons of debris.
A second cleanup of the woods adjacent to Church Park, 5630 E. Webb Road, is planned.
Sheriff’s Deputy Craig Hoffman and Pastor Hubbart estimate the initial cleanup removed half of the debris, Gamester said. “We’re talking about getting another one done before June 20th, because that’s when the rains come, and it’s a swamp in there” with lots of mosquitoes, Gamester said.
Langford said that will be possible. “Our goal is to always partner with any community,” he said. “If they get together as a community and schedule something, we’ll make arrangements to work with them.”