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International Coastal Cleanup Day is Sept. 25

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Mitch Traphagen Photo
RUSKIN — The pile of detritus was remarkable. In the span of a few hours, the volunteers had collected jugs of used motor oil, bicycles, lawn furniture, car batteries, tires and even a mattress and matching box spring. What made it all the more remarkable is that the stuff that filled the industrial-sized garbage container had only arrived within the preceeding year. The trash was collected on a past International Coastal Cleanup day.

The 2010 International Coastal Cleanup will be held on Saturday, September 25. South Hillsborough is represented with six locations in Ruskin and Apollo Beach. In all, up to 270 volunteers are needed to spend four hours making a huge difference for the coastal environment.

Jim Grannon is the site captain for one location dedicated to cleanup up the Gulf City/Sand Key area of Tampa Bay, taking over for his wife Sal who had spearheaded that area’s effort for the past four years.

“I’d like to get high school students, Scouts and local boaters involved in the event this year,” Jim Grannon said. “The past cleanups have yielded prodigious amounts of litter from the waterways — all in a four hour effort — and this year we need more help from the folks in the Ruskin boating community, the people who really enjoy the water, fishing and nature.”

The Gulf City/Sand Key meeting location is on Bayview Drive in Ruskin.

The annual International Coastal Cleanup is a global effort in which half a million volunteers join together to make a positive difference for the world’s oceans and waterways. Locally the effort is sponsored by Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful, a non-profit organization established in 1992 by residents concerned about the growing problem with litter in the county. The organization is supported by the Hillsborough County Solid Waste Management Department and the Board of County Commissioners, along with other community partners. The organization estimates they have collected hundreds of thousands of pounds of litter and illegally dumped material over the past 18 years.

According to Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful, last year’s event in Tampa Bay involved more than 3,000 volunteers cleaning 100 miles of coastline. Through their effort, more than 65,000 pounds of trash was picked up including 15,024 discarded cigarettes, nearly 9,000 glass bottles, thousands of cans and other plastic bottles and, oddly enough, a bowling pin and a backpack filled with coins. There were sober reminders for why the effort was needed: three pelicans found entangled in monofilament line, fish and other animal casualties.

In the Tampa Bay area, the volunteers come from all walks of life; including students gaining community service credits, families, Boy and Girl Scout Troops, businesses, and civic organizations and citizens that just want to spend a few hours making an impact on their communities. In addition to cleaning up the trash, volunteers also collect data that is sent to the Ocean Conservancy where it is used towards more effective efforts at future cleanups and for public education. The overall effort is supported by a wide array of local businesses and civic organizations.

A few years back on Coastal Cleanup day at Bayview Drive in Ruskin, the volunteers took off on foot and in small boats and canoes. They returned with an impressive and eclectic mix of trash cluttering the waterways of the community and threatening the wildlife. The gallons of used motor oil found in carelessly discarded jugs, the tires, the various plastic and metal bits and bobs, and everything else that filled the commercial-sized dumpster only seemed to prove the motto of Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful: “People are the problem. People are the solution.” On that Saturday morning, as it will be on September 25, Jim and Sal Grannon, along with their friends and neighbors from around Tampa Bay become the solution.

To volunteer to make a difference in your community, visit khcbonline.org, email khcb2@yahoo.com or call 813-960-5121. Registering in advance will help organizers and site captains to make the most effective plans for the day. Check-in begins at 8 a.m. on September 25 with the clean-up effort running from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Volunteers will receive a free t-shirt or tote bag to commemorate the event. With six locations in South Hillsborough, you can join your neighbors to make a very tangible and positive impact on Tampa Bay and our communities.

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