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Students on trash duty: 'It's kind of sad'

Schoolchildren joined in the 15th annual Florida Coastal Cleanup and got a grim reminder of the waste and disregard in local waterways.

By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 27, 2002


Hundreds of students from South Tampa schools did their best Saturday to make local waterways spic and span.

They got lessons about humanity in the process.

"Why would you want to pollute something you live in?" asked JaQuay Young, 17, a Robinson High School senior.

She and 30 other members of Robinson's National Honor Society chapter cleaned up around Ballast Point, including a muddy spit along Bayshore Boulevard that yielded a broken hula hoop, a child's scooter in decent condition and a dead sea turtle the size of a shoe box.

"It's kind of sad," said Matt Aviles, 16. "They don't even care."

The students were among 3,000 people in Hillsborough who participated in the 15th annual Florida Coastal Cleanup. The effort, part of a global anti-litter campaign led by the Ocean South Tampa was well represented -- and thoroughly cleaned.

Six of the 19 clean-up sites in Hillsborough were in South Tampa, including Picnic Island, Davis Islands and Gandy Bridge.

"The mangroves catch all the junk," said Bob Hough, an Interbay resident who served as site captain for the clean-up at Gandy boat ramp and Friendship Park.

More than 180 people rolled up their sleeves at the sites, many of them students from Robinson High, Blake High and Grady Elementary schools.

"We almost had too many," Hough said.

Many were doing it to earn community service credits; others just wanted to help, period.

A few miles away, 160 people pulled trash from sand dunes at Cypress Point Park.

The turnout was "our best so far," said organizer Al Donn, who has led beach cleanups there for 14 years.

About 90 people were either AT&T employees or family members; another 60 came from IBM. The University of Tampa also sent a team.

At Ballast Point Park, 20 students from gifted classes at Ballast Point Elementary collected 23 bags of trash in 90 minutes.

This is the sixth year in a row students from the school took part, said gifted teacher Lauri Kirsch.

"We wanted to instill in them a sense of taking care of the world -- and giving back," Kirsch said.

Fifth-grader Jessica Cranford said she wanted to make the park "a more beautiful place."

The biggest problem: beer bottles.

Cranford had a message for people who throw them on the rocks lining the waterfront: Cut it out.

"You're making a mess," she said.

- Ron Matus can be reached at 226-3405 or matus@sptimes.com.

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