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Tampa cleans up after its big party

TAMPA - The pirates plundered Tampa, and in their wake left a trail of trash. By the end of Saturday's Gasparilla Parade and Pirate Fest, downtown Tampa and Bayshore Boulevard were decorated with about 17 tons of garbage. The cleanup was left to the city's Solid Waste and Parks departments, which spent about $15,000 on equipment, overtime and dumping costs to clear the trash from the city's streets, officials said.

"This was probably one of the worst cleanups we've had to do because our crew worked from 10 o'clock at night until 5 in the morning in that rain, and they had a very difficult time of it," said Ross Ferlita, director of the Parks Department, which was responsible for getting Bayshore Boulevard back to its pristine state. "All the trash was wet and it was a lot heavier and a lot harder to handle. It was not a pleasant experience for them."

While 32 parks employees were picking up garbage on Bayshore, about 50 employees of the city's Solid Waste Department were tackling downtown Tampa and the Franklin Street Mall, where thousands of partygoers flocked after the parade.

Even after 10 hours of cleaning up, the job was not finished.

Another, smaller group of employees returned to the streets Sunday and Monday to finish the job, said Wayne Brookins, deputy director of the Solid Waste Department.

"When the rain came with the wind it scattered the debris in other places, therefore we had to go beyond the Franklin Street Mall to clean up," Brookins said.

Though the city put garbage containers along the parade route, city officials have accepted the fact that Gasparilla, like most outdoor festivals, is a time when usually responsible people become litterbugs.

"I just think that's part of the parade route," Ferlita said. "You couldn't put enough containers out there to contain the trash really. It would be most difficult to expect the public to put every piece of trash in a container."

The city also assigned about 300 police officers to Gasparilla, said Tampa Police Department spokesman Steve Cole. He said definitive cost figures were not available, but estimated that the security cost the city about $10,000.

"There was some overtime involved, but most of them took a day off during the week and then worked Saturday as a regular day," Cole said.