Monday, January 18, 2010

MLK Service Day at Camp Bayou

Yesterday (1/30/10), someone took the 55 gallon trash can, which still hadn't been picked up by the County Parks trash truck, and pushed/rolled it into the woods at the side of the road. So of course all that appropriately placed trash needs to be picked up now. Sigh....

Today we had a cleanup scheduled.
I often schedule events so that it will cover more than one goal. This one:
1- Fulfilled a desire to have a service event for MLK Service Day. Last year was our first MLK event. A few people showed up to help clean up the river using their own canoes and kayaks, or in a couple cases, doing a land based cleanup because they did not have their own vessels. Less than a dozen people picked up a whole lot of trash.
2- We are an Adopt-a-Road site that requires us to do at least 4 cleanups a year. Our main cleanups, in April and September, are coordinated by Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful. This cleanup in January seems like a good time between major events. We announce this opportunity through various volunteer organizations like, and others plus the media and our newsletter.
3- With an interest in citizen science, and a bit of a stretch in the definition, any cleanup is a data point for the Trash Tracker program recently implemented in Hillsborough through the folks who bring you Adopt-a-pond.

So there I was at 9:30am, just in case folks didn't read the part in the announcements that RSVPs are required (no one had contacted me to say they'd be there). I do not need an entourage to go to work so I started at the entry to Camp Bayou and started to pick up trash along the quarter mile stretch to the river.
A pattern became immediately apparent. I played a little game of CSI- imagining who the people were who left this evidence behind.

Most obvious is that they are mostly Bud Light drinkers. Sure there was plenty of Corona, even some Miller and Busch, with a sprinkling of hard liquor in sizes from half pint to half gallon. Out of the 4 bags of trash picked up, 80% were beer containers. Note that bottles were the preference, very few cans, and mostly in the 12oz size, although a couple quart sizes were found. (Afterthought- cans were probably just as plentiful. They just get picked up by folks who take them to the metal recycling guys to get their few pennies a piece. Hey, it works- can we put a refund on glass bottles too? That would help a little...)

The pattern was pretty consistent until the end of the road where, inevitably, the munchies struck and there was a sprinkling of fast food wrappers- McDs, Wendy's and Taco Bell.

At the water's edge, there was a string attached to a fish head laying in the water. No doubt someone was hoping to entice a blue claw crab, although we are a bit far upriver for that at this time of year. Knowing the reputation of this particular, fairly isolated area, that isn't the only type of crabs that have been caught at this location. The occasional condom attests to that.

I haven't even mentioned the fact that this is a Hillsborough County preserve where alcohol is never supposed to be allowed. Since local law enforcement just doesn't have the resources to bother with something as trivial as the alcohol ordinance (forget about littering), I don't expect things to change any time soon. I'd like to be able to say it should be easy to catch someone in the act because the gates are closed at night, but the contorted shape of the metal gate shows that people have gotten in and out after the posted hours of operation by ramming the gate on more than one occasion.

On the other hand, we've been picking up trash at the end of this road for the last 10 years. It really isn't any worse than in the past. A silver lining, of sorts, can be seen in the fact that although 4 bags of trash were picked up from the road side, an equal amount of trash was propertly disposed of in the 55 gal trash can at the end of the road (also piled high with Bud Light).

This blog post has been an exercise in venting some frustration but in the end, Camp Bayou is a wonderful place and I will not be swayed in my dedication just because some folks just don't appreciate the amazing place where they've chosen to stop.

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