Three-year-old Danielle Cunningham had a hard time distinguishing pine cones from cans and tree branches from trash Saturday morning, but she had the right idea.
And what Danielle lacked in discrimination, she made up for in zeal. Accompanied by her watchful father, Daniel Cunningham, 26, of Spring Hill, the curly-haired tot eagerly joined about 120 others in Hernando County's fifth annual Coastal Cleanup.
"I read about this in the newspaper," Cunningham said, vigilantly watching Danielle, who was collecting branches and bits of bark at Bayport Park, the cleanup's makeshift organizational headquarters.
"I fish once in a blue moon, but I like it out here," Cunningham said. "This is the first time I've done this, but I like seeing it all clean."
Although tallies of the participants and their haul were not available early Saturday afternoon, the turnout clearly fell short of planners' projections of exceeding the more than 300 volunteers of last year. Yet the decline in attendance had little effect on morale.
"I got all this stuff; this must be the local trash can," Mary Tout said disdainfully, pointing to a small pile of rubbish she had collected near the entrance to Bayport. "Maybe if people see other people cleaning up today, they'll think twice (about littering)."
Angel Hoban and friends tidied sections of the coast near Pine Island. The 17-year-old was among a handful of students from Central High School who had organized a cleanup crew for the occasion. The group's effort yielded three bags and two tires.
"It has to be done," Hoban said. "We just want to do it to be helpful."
Hoban's friend Steve Barton, 17, also helped out of altruism, "but it would be nice to get extra credit" in school, he said.
Hernando's cleanup was just a drop in the bucket, so to speak. The effort is nationwide and is aimed at beautifying the environment. The local cleanup is organized by the Hernando County Port Authority, the Hernando chapter of the Audubon Society, and Coastal Engineering.
The national program is run through the Center for Marine Conservation in Washington, D.C.