TAMPA — A bag of big, rotting dead birds. The bed of a pickup truck. A shower rod.
Decked out in neon green vests and free T-shirts, volunteers picked those things and many others off the ground and out of the water on Saturday morning during the Great American Cleanup.
Ralen Toledo, 16, found the birds at near the Courtney Campbell Parkway. They were probably pelicans, but he's not sure.
"We weren't too eager to open it," he said.
He handed the bag off to adults shortly after finding it.
"We didn't want to carry it," said Austin Steuer, 14. "It was kind of smelly."
About 2,500 people signed up for the 17th annual cleanup at 44 locations in Hillsborough County. The morning's work included litter pickup, tree planting and education outreach programs.
Many volunteers were students looking to get community service, but they were joined by families and adults wanting to help out, said Christine Commerce, executive director of Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful.
Last year, volunteers picked up more than 60,000 pounds of trash, she said. Saturday's total wasn't immediately available.
"If it wasn't for their efforts, our county would be under a blanket of trash," Commerce said.
Last year, Hillsborough County took first place for attendance among communities of more than 200,000, education coordinator Pat DePlasco said. She said she hopes to do it again this year.
At Perrone Park in Tampa, about 10 volunteers were tasked with cleaning up a homeless camp behind the park. They needed the help of sheriff's deputies to finish. The trash at the site completely filled a pickup truck, Commerce said.
At the causeway cleanup, four Orange Grove Middle School girls hung out and joked around after picking up trash.
Mark Rametta, there with his 13-year-old daughter, Miranda, said they wanted to help the community.
"Their school brought them out here and said, 'Clean up, make a difference,' " he said.
The teens were more vocal about the extra credit they are getting for science class.
"Watch her give us two points," said an irritated Jennifer Rager, 14, after finding a dead dog in a box.
Hilary Lehman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2441.