Members of Gulfport’s Kayak Nature Adventures Paddle Club loaded their boats and headed to Citrus County for a trek into the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area. Their quarry: cans and bottles, bags and cups — anything floating or washed up onshore.
Kurt Zuelsdorf led the group of volunteers on its mission to clean up hard-to-reach areas along the Weeki Wachee River, with the permission of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
“We were working in a restricted area in Chassahowitzka, so we had to get a special permit from the FWC to obtain access,” said Zuelsdorf. “The volunteers were surprised to find so much trash in such a remote area.”
Zuelsdorf has partnered with the District through the Community Education Grant program to clean up other local waterways. The District provided funding for his Habitat Florida Manatee project to collect trash in nine manatee habitats last summer, including two projects on the Weeki Wachee River. Zuelsdorf has asked the District to fund six more cleanup projects next summer.
“We had a good turnout at Chassahowitzka,” said Zuelsdorf. “We had volunteers as young as eight and as old as eighty taking part. It was a great way to spend a Saturday.”
Zuelsdorf said volunteers learned that their habits at home could contribute to the need for cleanup projects.
“Almost all the volunteers think the litter in the waterways is from intentional dumping,” said Zuelsdorf. “But the truth is that most of it comes from stormwater runoff — thousands of people thinking that the one piece of trash they left in the gutter doesn’t make a difference. Projects like these help people see that what they do really does make a difference.”