Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

Cleanup leaves Hillsborough waters safer

TAMPA — A toadfish cheated destiny Saturday. There it was, snagged by discarded fishing line below the Ballast Point Park pier. Along came humans, who happened to work at an aquarium.

The fish went free and the line went into a recycling bin, a teeny triumph of wildlife over trash.

As many as 4,000 such helpful humans sifted through shores and shallows Saturday as part of a Hillsborough County river and bay cleanup organized by Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful. The 70 targeted sites included the Courtney Campbell Causeway, Cypress Point Park and Beer Can Island.

Hands reached into the gunk and came up with tons of junk.

Amid it all, there was at least one tense moment, before volunteers could adjourn to a Lowry Park rally to race boats made of recycled materials.

A large trash bag found off the Courtney Campbell elicited a call to police. The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office had to be consulted. But, no, the remains weren't human.

Other discoveries required no police investigation — though maybe there was a tale behind the laptop computer found off Ballast Point. Ditched evidence of tax refund fraud, perhaps?

"We think this is the laptop used in the SAT cheating scandal a few years back," quipped site leader Dan Fisher, 53.

He and his wife, both founders of the Tampa Bay Green Consortium, live in the Ballast Point neighborhood, near the southern end of Bayshore Boulevard. One of its most prominent features is a 970-foot pier that gets plenty of use, judging from debris.

Along with the laptop, a bicycle and four cellphones, volunteers found 232 fishing lines, 74 weights, 48 fishing hooks, 14 cast nets, 23 glass bottles, 14 aluminum cans, 10 knives and over 160 pounds of metal, rubber, plastic and glass fragments.

And, of course, the toadfish, first spotted by Nicky Wilson, 28, supervisor of dive operations at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. She saw it from the pier and alerted aquarium divers Erin Gallagher, 26, Michael Sistrunk, 39, and Betty Rzewnicki, 43.

There were eight divers and two kayaks in the water; above them, fellow volunteers watched air bubbles and warned of encroaching jellyfish.

Boaters collected the treasures so divers could travel light.

"They seemed to fill up the bags pretty quickly," said Army Maj. Adam Kordish, 43, who paddled a kayak with his wife, Jane, 46, an Army veteran. They estimate they carried in 10 bags of trash, including the laptop and part of a hookah pipe.

Maureen Wiltse, 46, of Dunedin, was among those monitoring from the pier.

"I dove three years ago and the visibility is unbelievable down there," she said. "You can only see about 6 inches in front of you. And my boyfriend actually got tangled up with monofilament and I had to pull my knife and cut him free."

Lesley Fleming kept an eye out for her diver son, Ted, 25.

She noted the interesting mix of people helping. Her son works as a financial analyst. She's a horticultural therapist. Wiltse has business ties to a chocolate company. Fisher, a retired Navy officer, works for a defense contractor. Cub Scouts assisted in a landside cleanup of the park.

Pat DePlasco of Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful said it was "heartwarming" to see so many volunteers turn out for the event.

She tells people about the dangers that trash poses in the wild: A dolphin mistakes a plastic bag for a jellyfish and starves when the bag balloons in the stomach. A loggerhead turtle dies inside a collapsed lawn chair. A blue heron spears a soda can and can no longer open its beak.

The group organizes two large cleanups a year. Other groups organize similar events, including Tampa Bay Watch, which plans to tackle Fort De Soto Park and its shores on Saturday. (The website says the event is already full.)

DePlasco said the trash keeps coming, some of it carried in from the bay by tides.

In July, volunteers plucked trash from below Causeway Boulevard near Tampa's shrimp docks, she said. "I was just out there last week and you'd never know someone was there."

Patty Ryan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3382.

   
Comments
Rays’ Jake Faria may be out until August, Vidal Nuno called up

Rays’ Jake Faria may be out until August, Vidal Nuno called up

UPDATE, 5:32: Faria is looking at at extended absence, potentially into August. Cash said an estimate of 6-8 weeks was on the optimistic side. "From what we found out he got it pretty good," Cash said.  "So it could be a little bit longer than t...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Chuck Prather, owner of the Birchwood in St. Petersburg, returned from his daughter’s Maine wedding this week with an exciting announcement of his own. On June 7 the St. Petersburg City Council is expected to sign off on him being on...
Updated: 18 minutes ago

Sinkhole opens up near Bayfront Health’s Brooksville hospital

BROOKSVILLE — A large sinkhole opened up by Bayfront Health Brooksville hospital in a water retention pond between State Road 50 and the hospital’s parking lot, according to a hospital spokeswoman.The sinkhole poses no threat to hospital buildings, e...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

TAMPA — Teachers in Hillsborough County came closer on Wednesday to reaching an agreement with the school district that would give them most, but not all of the pay they expected this past year.The deal, if it happens, will end a year-long conflict t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
USF posts (mostly) solid APR marks

USF posts (mostly) solid APR marks

For the third consecutive year, all 16 USF sports programs posted Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores of 952 or better, well above the NCAA's minimum standard.But its two most prominent sports showed mild decreases.The 2016-17 APR scores (rolling fou...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Son tells NC police he found dog leash around neck of strangled Hillsborough developer Bill Bishop

Son tells NC police he found dog leash around neck of strangled Hillsborough developer Bill Bishop

After a prominent Hillsborough County developer died last month in North Carolina, word spread it was a heart attack that claimed his life.But records from that state show the death of William "Bill" Bishop was much more complicated.His 16-year-old s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Three arrested for street racing after mother fatally struck pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard

Three arrested for street racing after mother fatally struck pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard

TAMPA — An Ohio mother was struck by a speeding car and killed Wednesday while pushing a stroller across Bayshore Boulevard and her 21-month-old daughter was seriously injured, Tampa police said.The two were hit by a northbound car around 11:43 a.m. ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
State softball: Land O’Lakes advances to second straight title game

State softball: Land O’Lakes advances to second straight title game

VERO BEACH — Land O'Lakes had just finished a hard-fought 5-0 victory over Clay in the Class 6A state semifinal. Callie Turner threw a no-hitter. Jolene Bodner had a two-run single.The win was big, clinching the Gators' second straight champion...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Eckerd College student critically injured in campus accident just before graduation

Eckerd College student critically injured in campus accident just before graduation

ST. PETERSBURG — An Eckerd College student fell from a ladder on campus in the hours before her graduation ceremony and remained hospitalized Wednesday with head injuries.Chicago native Rebecca Ryan Lavin-Burgher, known as Becca on campus and RyRy to...
Updated: 1 hour ago
State baseball: Carrollwood Day comes up a run short in semifinals

State baseball: Carrollwood Day comes up a run short in semifinals

FORT MYERS — One swing.That's all it took for Carrollwood Day's historic season to come to an end.With two outs and two runners on in the third inning of the Class 3A state semifinal against Tallahassee North Florida Christian, Patriots starter...
Updated: 2 hours ago