TAMPA — Saturday was a beautiful day for the beach, but this beach wasn't so beautiful.
Not at the beginning of the day, anyway.
But with the help of hundreds of volunteers, more than 1,000 bags of trash were removed from along the Courtney Campbell Causeway.
Keep Hillsborough County beautiful dispatched about 3,000 volunteers to 28 sites as part of the International Coastal Cleanup.
Along the causeway, volunteers picked up clothes, beer cans, shoes, cigarette butts, nets, plastic, cardboard and more. The trash lay on the white sand, in the mangroves and along the causeway's access road.
While no occult items or drugs were found along the causeway this year, as they had in the past, there were still strange things in the mix: A bra, chicken bones, a dreidel, a child's car seat and XL men's white underwear.
Members of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity at the University of Tampa found a part of a prosthetic hand, and a group of USF students discovered a large crossbow case (without the bow).
At about 9 a.m., USF Student Environmental Association members grabbed gloves and plastic bags and walked west along the access road until they saw a foot-worn path leading into the mangroves.
They ducked under branches, hunched down to pick up trash and carefully navigated the sprawling mangroves.
"Just hold the mangroves," Christopher Lizardi, 20, instructed. "But try not to hurt them because they're important to the ecosystem, and they're a buffer zone."
Lizardi is an environmental science major. So is Shawna Feinman, 19. She's studying environmental policy.
Although their approach is academic, they like to get their hands dirty to help, too.
"You have to get out there and do it yourself," Feinman said. "You can't just wait around for somebody else to clean it up."
The group trudges on and eventually emerges on the access road, where biology major Tara Costich, 23, points out a large black-and-yellow spider.
"That is crazy," said Jeff Sheridan, 21.
He's the one who found the men's underwear in what he thinks may have been a homeless man's living room.
Volunteers at other sites were also successful. In Gibsonton's Gardenville Recreation Center, volunteers pulled out about 60 tires, said Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful executive director Christine Commerce.
No estimate of the total amount of trash removed was available Saturday, but Commerce said last year volunteers cleared about 100 miles of coast, hauling away 60,000 pounds of junk and litter.
Saturday's event also led to one animal rescue, Commerce said. A plover — a small bird — with a broken wing was discovered and taken to the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary. Although it wasn't tangled in trash, workers have seen dead birds during past cleanups. And that's part of the reason they keep cleaning.
"People don't realize that what seems to be a harmless piece of litter can be harmful to the wildlife," Commerce said. "They can ingest it or get tangled in it."
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2443.