In the bag: Waterway Cleanup not messin’ around

For nearly four hours last Saturday morning, volunteers fanned out along the Indian River Lagoon, snaking gloved hands between mangrove roots and weaving their way through Australian pines on spoil islands as participants in the 10th Annual Treasure Coast Waterway Cleanup. The environmentally friendly event occurred simultaneously along 125 miles of Treasure Coast waterways spanning Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties.
Approximately 150 Indian River County participants, their black plastic bags in hand, had risen with the sun to walk, paddle and motor around picking up trash left behind by others. They had gathered at various spots, including the Riverside Park Boat Ramp, Vero Beach Municipal Marina, Vero Marine Center, Suntex Marina at Grand Harbor (formerly Loggerhead Marina), Wabasso Causeway Boat Ramp, Sebastian Main Street Boat Ramp and Sebastian Inlet Marina.
As updates trickled in from several locations, event coordinator April Price noted the encouraging news that less garbage was found this year.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if last year’s trash count of 1.4 tons hits the one-ton mark,” said Price excitedly. “We want to work our way out of a job. That will happen when there isn’t any more trash to be picked up.”
Stephen Haigis, the Indian River County site leader, has participated since the cleanup began and said he was asked by the County Commission to add the Oslo Boat Ramp to the list of cleanup locations this year.
“We found a couple of hundred pounds of trash there. A lot of it was fast food packaging stuck in the mangroves and there was quite a bit of old dock too,” shared Haigis. “I am happy to say that I’ve seen a big decrease since we started doing this 10 years ago.”
Explaining that no one had done a cleanup after the 2004 hurricanes, Haigis added, “the first couple of years we found a lot of stuff. This cleanup has brought the problem to the forefront. People are more aware and realize plastic doesn’t go away.”
Dick Myers said that 25 volunteers met at Riverside Park, noting “people took off in kayaks and on a pontoon boat while others collected trash here in the park.”
Paula Nunnari and three other kayakers were among those who pushed off on their trash hunt from Riverside Park, joined by a friend from Melbourne who brought his boat down to provide backup.
“We spend a lot of time on the water, so we’re here to do our part,” said Nunnari as she unloaded her kayak. “We’re still finding broken chairs, tents and grills,” explained Price. “We would really like to get the message out, if you take it out to an island, please bring it back with you and discard it properly when you return to shore.” Volunteers are invited to an appreciation barbecue on Aug. 13 at the Fort Pierce Yacht Club.

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