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Volunteers clean Hillsborough during the Great American Cleanup

Natasha Dickrell, left, and Lisa Foster clean up the channel in Davis Islands on Saturday. “It’s disheartening,” Dickrell said.

SHELLEY ROSSETTER | Times

Natasha Dickrell, left, and Lisa Foster clean up the channel in Davis Islands on Saturday. “It’s disheartening,” Dickrell said.

TAMPA — With gloves on and a garbage bag ready, Yasmeen Fernandez picked up a dirty strand of once-glittering Gasparilla beads and smiled.

"Ooh, look," the 8-year-old said, showing off the beads before tossing them toward a growing collection of junk that already included a shoe, parts of a bicycle and a ball cap.

The Brownies of Girl Scout Troop 886 pulled those items and more from the rocks along the south end of Davis Islands Saturday as part of the Great American Cleanup, which runs from March 1 through May 31.

More than 2,500 volunteers in 52 locations across Hillsborough County participated Saturday in the campaign to reduce litter in public spaces.

For Fernandez and her fellow Brownies, cleaning up was an adventure.

"They don't know it's work; they think it's a treasure hunt," troop leader Valerie Tobin said.

Shouts of excitement, or disgust, rang out as each girl found another piece of junk:

"A coaster!"

"A bottle cap!"

"Ew … a cigarette!"

Though Fernandez had fun, she said the seemingly never-ending amount of litter was discouraging.

"When you litter, God thinks you don't care about the Earth," she said. "I feel like they're not really helping the world be a better place."

Across the island, Boy Scout Pack 22 cleaned up baseballs, beads and more near the Davis Islands ballpark.

But more than two hours into the effort, parents were the only ones still at it.

"It's kind of tiring and annoying that we just have to pick up other people's things when there's trash cans all around," said Liam Randall, 9.

Last year during the Great American Cleanup, more than 110,000 pounds of garbage and recyclables were collected in Hillsborough County, said Debbie Evenson, the executive director of Keeping Tampa Bay Beautiful.

In years past, more than 60,000 pounds of trash were collected in a single day. Saturday's total wasn't immediately available.

"This has a huge impact, not only the cleanup itself, but its impact on the youth and volunteers," Evenson said. "It gives them a good feeling that they gave back to the community."

In a neighborhood filled with picturesque, tree-lined streets and water views, Natasha Dickrell, 29, was surprised by the amount of trash along the channel in Davis Islands.

"It's kind of deceiving because when you drive by, it looks all clean, but then you get into the rocks and see all this junk down here," Dickrell said. Balancing on stones along the channel, Dickrell and others from Edward Jones cleaned up yellow police tape, drinking straws and fishing line.

"It's disheartening," Dickrell said, "because this is supposed to be one of the nicer parts of Tampa."

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2442.

Volunteers clean Hillsborough during the Great American Cleanup 04/16/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 3:24pm]
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