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Volunteers give Pithlachascotee a scrubbing

Published Oct. 18, 2005

In the past, humanity left a bad mark on the Pithlachascotee River: trash. Submerged tires and stoves, floating beer cans and plastic cups were almost as common as the water life in the river.

On Saturday, nearly 200 people tried to remove that mark by cleaning out the trash.

The event was the semi-annual River Cleanup sponsored by the cities of New Port Richey and Port Richey and the Pasco County Government. The turnout went beyond organizers expectations, said New Port Rich-ey city council member William Partridge, who helped organize the effort.

"This is beyond all my wildest dreams," he said.

The effort was the first time in the three year history of the river cleanup that all government agencies along the river have participated. In the past, New Port Richey bore the brunt of the effort and only worked the river where it ran through the city, Partridge said.

"I was aiming to have all three jurisdictions claim this river, or should I say reclaim this river," he said.

This time, cleanup efforts focused on the whole river, from Rowan Road to the Gulf of Mexico. Armed with garbage bags, gloves and rakes, in boats or on land, residents combed the five-mile length of the river searching for trash.

But residents had some trouble finding trash during the nearly four-hour effort. The river appeared to be cleaner this time around, said Bob Consalvo, New Port Richey Parks and recreation director. About 60 yards of trash, or one and a half dumpsters, was collected.

"Last time we had a quarter of the people and twice as much trash," he said."

The Royal Rangers of First Assembly of God church in New Port Richey collected tires, shoes and even an old wooden boat step as they canoed along the river near Frances Avenue Park. Although most of the trash hugged the murky shore, the rangers, who are ages 5 to 13, were undaunted.

"One kid went in past his knees in the muck," said chaperone Bill Kuehne. "Another spent more time on the bank than in the boat."

Martha Poarch of St. Petersburg and Paula Hartzel of Safety Harbor canoed along the river near Frances Avenue Park. They collected a number of old fisherman's buckets, plastic cups and hub caps.

"It was hard work," said Hartzel. "We filled the center of our canoe with trash in two and half hours."

Residents still pulled some unusual things out of the river, said Michael Winton, Port Richey city council member and organizer. Catches included tires, shoes and parts of floating docks. Winton's group actually pulled an alligator out of the water, albeit a stone one.

There still wasn't enough work for all the volunteers who showed up, but that problem was the kind organizers are happy about, Partridge said.

"We had this lovely problem _ there wasn't enough garbage for the 200 people," he said. "(It could) be a sign that people are cleaning it up."