tampabay.com

Kayak for free, do a good deed

Get an hour's rental in exchange for bagging trash at Clam Bayou.

By NICK JOHNSON
Published March 4, 2007


GULFPORT - Kurt Zuelsdorf, an 18-year resident of Gulfport, dreamed of running a business that would provide kayak rentals and tours in the area, but he couldn't find a good location.

Then his daughter led him to the perfect spot: the oft-overlooked Clam Bayou Nature Park, in his own back yard in Gulfport.

The park has a kayak launch, lagoons throughout the mangroves and an abundance of nesting birds and other wildlife. It also has large amounts of trash and debris.

Zuelsdorf will help lead a cleanup that will begin Monday with Kayak Nature Adventure's Bring Back the Bayou program.

"The pollution out there is unbearable," Zuelsdorf said. From water bottles to volleyballs, candy wrappers to shopping carts, the junk forces wildlife that lives in the park to wade through the mess.

Zuelsdorf said he hopes to draw attention to the issue and clean up the park by offering free kayak rentals in return for a bag of trash collected from the waterways.

"I want to really inject as many people into this area as I can," he said. He said he hopes this will solve the pollution problem in Clam Bayou and be a fun way for people to enjoy the animals that call it home.

Bring Back the Bayou will provide a kayak for one hour in return for filling a black garbage bag with litter from the water or mangroves. The kayak rentals usually cost $15 for a single or $25 for a double for an hour.

Filling the bag should be no problem.

"You don't have to go 20 yards," Zuelsdorf said. He doesn't mind if kayakers fill the bag in five minutes and then enjoy paddling for the remaining hour or take their time about it.

"Any way you want to do it," he said. "Pick up a bag and go." After all, he wants people to enjoy the project.

Zuelsdorf, who started Kayak Nature Adventures last July, said he is being sponsored by a small grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

His inspiration for the program is the birds that live and nest in the mangroves. He isn't concerned with any political issues surrounding the bayou; he just wants it cleaned up.

"It's all for the birds," he said.

Anyone who is not able to paddle can help by donating cash or supplies. Needed are bottled water, children's life jackets, garbage bags and even services such as advertising. All donations will be used to clean up the bayou.

Nick Johnson can be reached at nickjohnson@sptimes.com or 893-8215.

IF YOU GO

Bring Back the Bayou for 3 months

Kayak Nature Adventures is just south of Miriam Street and 29th Avenue in Gulfport. The Bring Back the Bayou program will begin Monday and run from 4 to 6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, weather permitting. The program is scheduled to run for three months.

For reservations or information call Kurt Zuelsdorf at 727 418-9728, e-mail Kurtz@kayaknature.com or visit www.kayaknature.com.