TAMPA — Sea oats swayed in the breeze and dolphins splashed not too far from shore, as Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful kicked off its campaign for the Great American Cleanup.
During the event last week at the boat ramps off the Courtney Campbell causeway, the group introduced its newest weapon in the annual cleanup effort: Pete the Pirate Pelican.
Students from Lee Academy for Gifted Education, Morgan Woods Elementary and FishHawk Creek Elementary snacked on doughnuts, fruit and juice while waiting for the new mascot to be introduced. The colorful "pelican," with hooks in his beak and on the brim of his hat, stood nearby with a trash grabber.
Some students who had taken part in a slogan contest for the cleanup addressed the crowd.
Jack Oswald, 11, won for his entry: "One man's trash is not always another man's treasure."
Jack said he wanted a slogan that fell in line with the pirate theme.
Bennett Nichols, 10, was a runner-up. The Lee Academy student said he implements recycling and conservation at home, too.
"I like nature. I like to help animals," Bennett said. When he goes to the beach with his mother, they take two empty bags: one for shells, one for trash, he said. "If you see a piece of trash on the ground, just pick it up," Bennett said in a speech to the crowd.
The event marked the 75th anniversary of the Courtney Campbell causeway and Florida Oceans Day, which was also last week.
The official Great American Cleanup for Hillsborough County is April 18. The Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful group expects at least 2,000 volunteers to help this year. Last year, 2,300 volunteers picked up 67,000 pounds of trash. Nationally, the event runs from March 1 until May 31.
Richard Mims, a member of the group's board, talked about the cleanup's humble beginning. Cam Oberting, 77, approached the Hillsborough County Commission in 1991 about the litter problem. Oberting, a Seffner resident and self-proclaimed "clean freak," was at the event.
"I just like things clean," she said.
Now, Oberting is working to get sheriff's deputies to ticket more people for littering. In Seffner, a "Trash Trooper" program encourages neighbors to report drivers who litter. The offenders are sent a trash bag — or an ashtray if they were caught throwing a cigarette butt.
County Commissioner Mark Sharpe also spoke at last week's event.
"We (government) can't do it by ourselves," he said. "We need to have our citizens engaged. We want to get the word out. Stay involved and keep Hillsborough County clean."
Jared Leone can be reached at (813) 269-5314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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