Volunteers Remove Tons of Trash and Debris From Restoration Site

Restoration site

From top: (1) The restoration site prior to the cleanup. (2) Raymond Chen and other volunteers show off the coins he found. (3) Using a track hoe, Jason Wadsworth of J. D. Sunny Isle removes exotics. (4) Lisa Henningsen, District staff environmental scientist, and Bill Lewelling, District hydrologist, stand near a dumpster of trash collected during the cleanup.

Eighty-five people answered the call for volunteers to help remove mountains of tires, television sets and other trash and debris from Marsh Creek in Ruskin.

Because there was so much trash and other debris at this site, the District’s Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Program and the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department worked with Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful to include the volunteer workday in the list of locations for the 24th Annual International Coastal Cleanup.

“We knew that including it as part of the Coastal Cleanup would help attract volunteers because the annual event is so well known,” said Brandt Henningsen, District chief environmental scientist.

Volunteers met at Ruskin’s Commongood Park before heading over to the site. In about three hours, they managed to fill two 40-cubic-yard dumpsters, which is about 8,000 pounds. If the District paid a contractor to do the work, it would have cost $30,000.

Xinjian Chen, a District senior professional engineer, and his 13-year-old son Raymond, pitched in to clean up the creek. Chen says they volunteered for this event because his son, who is very involved in school activities and volunteering, had some free time. As it turns out, Raymond made a valuable find among the rubbish — a duffle bag of coins!

“The flier said you could keep whatever you find,” Xinjian Chen said with a laugh.

Chen and Henningsen checked with the District’s and the county’s lawyers just to be sure and the lawyers confirmed Raymond could keep the $65 in coins he found.

In addition to the debris removed by volunteers, Hillsborough County hauled away 12,200 pounds of debris the week before. Most of what was hauled away was bigger items that volunteers would have a hard time removing, such as the abandoned boats, refrigerators and rolls of fencing.

Marsh Creek is a habitat restoration project of the District’s SWIM Program and the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department. The project involves removing trash and invasive plants from approximately 48 acres, as well as three years of quarterly nonnative plant maintenance. Once this is complete, District and county staff will determine what type of improvements, such as stormwater treatment and habitat restoration components, can be made to improve water quality. The area may also be replanted with native vegetation.

The International Coastal Cleanup was started by the Ocean Conservancy. While cleanups are held year-round, the annual event held in September is the largest single-day volunteer effort of its kind.

To learn about volunteer opportunities on District lands, visit the District’s web site at WaterMatters.org/volunteer or call 1-800-423-1476 (FL only), ext. 4470.