Volunteers for the Tampa Bay Great American Cleanup always find a few oddities and the Apollo Beach Nature Preserve didn’t disappoint this year.
Among the usual cigarette butts, soda cans and plastic bags, a volunteer during Saturday’s found a 3-foot by 3-foot, beached plastic Jet Ski dock.
The dock served as an important reminder: Sometimes litter isn’t intentional, it’s the result of carelessness.
How else would a bottle of sealed prescription pills and an unopened, rusted lockbox, turn up in other areas of the county?
From 9 a.m. to noon, about 35 volunteers scoured the three-acre preserve for litter, ranging from cigarette butts, to beer cans and bottles, to yards of tangled fishing line. The Apollo Beach cleanup was one of 80 sites around Hillsborough County targeted for cleaning.
Coordinated by Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful and Cleanup site captain Joe Marzilli, about 500 pounds of litter was purged from the park.
Marzilli, in his 13th year with the cleanup, said each year the effort has shrunk in area and trash count as littering wanes. He said the frequency of finding oddities like toilets, car parts and even a live guinea pig are becoming scarcer – and that’s the name of the game.
“Since I’ve been doing this, the amount of trash gets smaller and smaller. That means we’re doing our job and we’ve created a public awareness,” said Marzilli, who lives in Apollo Beach. “We want the whole county to be a nicer place, we just happen to be at Apollo Beach.”
Daisy Packer, environmental program coordinator for Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, said countywide, about 3,000 volunteers picked up nearly 65,000 pounds of trash and planted about 940 native trees. She said in 2012, about 50,000 pounds was collected, but more sites were added this year and more walk-up volunteers showed up on pick-up day.
“In the older sites, trash counts have gone down,” she said. “This year was a fantastic effort by the volunteers and sponsors and site captains. A lot was accomplished.”
Away from the Nature Preserve pavilion headquarters, individuals and families – like the Marshalls of Palm Harbor -- did their part in the pick-up around the park, in the parking lot and along the shoreline.
Allan Marshall, along with his wife, Beth, and sons, D’Arcy, 11 and Douglas, 13, carried plastic sacks and purged underbrush and sand of candy bar wrappers, soda bottles and paper bags. It was the first time the family had taken part in the cleanup and Allan said his boys were also helping to earn Boy Scout merit badges.
“We got involved to do the right thing, help the community,” he said. “We made it a family event and I hope they’re learning some community responsibility about where you live and making the place better for everyone.”
Following the clean-up, volunteers from around the county were invited to an “After Trash Beach Bash” at Whiskey Joe’s, 7720 Courtney Campbell Causeway.
Packer said the next major trash collection effort will be the Hillsborough River and Coastal Cleanup Oct. 12.