Despite a broken leg, 11-year-old Jamie Richey was ready to jump into a canoe and clean up the Hillsborough River on Wednesday. "I want to do it to make the place look better and to have some fun," said Jamie, a Boy Scout from Troop 189.
As part of the fifth annual "Clean River Run," a group of about 50 Boy Scouts and 25 other residents armed with trash bags and oars cleaned more than six miles of the river.
The cleanup began at the Fowler Avenue Boat Ramp and ended at Riverhills Park in Temple Terrace. The event was sponsored by the Temple Terrace departments of Recreation and Public Works and the Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Department of the Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud).
SWIM has made the Hillsborough River, the source of drinking water for the city of Tampa, a priority for cleanup and protection.
The cleanup crew climbed aboard 25 canoes and motor boats and set out on a four-hour trek for trash at 7:30 a.m.
"It gives you a chance to do your part to save the Earth," said Sheldon Young, 13, of Troop 189. "You can find trash cans, ice boxes, radios, shoes and shirts out here."
That's not all they found. Among the items floating in the river were a dead cow, a watermelon, a makeup kit, a cable spool and a pair of sandals.
The cleanup also was a chance for children to learn an appreciation for the environment by engaging in community service.
"I think that the river is a necessary part in the environment," said Donny Hollett, 15. "We should do our best to keep it clean so everyone can enjoy it."
Although most of the Scouts enjoyed the job, they discovered keeping the environment clean is hard work. One canoe tipped over when the Scouts tried to grab a tire from the water. No one was hurt, and they went back to work.
Using their hands and oars to retrieve items from the water, some of the volunteers fought through moss and water plants to reach their targets. At times it was frustrating, but the motivation was always strong.
One reason was competition.
"It's like a sport," Sheldon Young said. "When we get the trash, we have a contest to see who has the smelliest or heaviest trash."
Young won the smelliest competition last year. There was no clear winner this year.
Despite the fun that comes along with competition, Sheldon said he wishes people would be more considerate.
"There are garbage cans all along the river, but on one uses them," he said.
Around noon, the Scouts reached the finish line at Riverhills Park and began to tally the results. The trash also had to be separated for recycling.
Ken Kramer, river cleanup chairman, said the Scouts collected less garbage than last year. The river is higher this year because of recent rains, reducing the amount of trash that collects in the river, Kramer said. Also, there's a higher level of public awareness about the environment.
Kramer estimated that 3,500 pounds of litter was collected compared to last year's 4,000 pounds. Last year's effort is a national finalist in the U.S. Department of the Interior's "Take Pride In America" award program. Winners have not been announced yet.
"It was great," said Freda Abercrombie, assistant Scout master for Troop 84. "It's everything that Boy Scouts are supposed to do."