Cape waterways a little cleaner
Cape Coral residents pitched in Saturday morning to help remove debris and litter from the city’s waterways during the third annual Canal Cleanup.
Organized by the city’s Environmental Resources Division and Keep Lee County Beautiful, the event brings boaters, kayakers and others together in an effort to clear garbage from the Cape’s canals and waterfront land. Kim Cressman, event organizer and an environmental biologist for the city, said about 100 volunteers participated in this year’s event. About 150 people volunteered last year.
“People are really enthusiastic about it, about doing something you can see,” she said. “It’s nice to see such an enthusiastic response. We’ve got great people out here.”
Volunteers met at the pavilion at the Cape Coral Yacht Club, where they set out on boats and kayaks launched from the boat ramp and beach. Those without a means to search by water set out on foot to pick up what they could along the waterline. Cressman estimated that the volunteers collected about 1,700 pounds of debris – less than last year, when about 6,000 pounds were removed.
Cressman attributed the difference in weight to participants finding more lighter items this year, like Styrofoam cups and plastic bags. A few larger items were still discovered and removed, including a fence and a recliner. One group found almost an entire wooden dock. Weighing almost 300 pounds, the dock was left on one generous homeowner’s property until Cressman can find a way to remove it.
“A lot of people found tires,” she added.
For the first time, volunteers also cleaned up some freshwater canals in the Cape. The Cape Coral Bass Club took the initiative to target the water system in the Lake Kennedy area. The trash the club collected filled up a 20-yeard dumpster. Cressman added that this debris was not totaled into the 1,700 pounds.
Maija Gadient, a resident who has split her time between the Cape and Switzerland for 14 years, said it was her third year participating in the cleanup. She went out on a boat and picked up Styrofoam cups, fast food containers and plastic bags, but kept an eye out for one type of debris in particular.
“Those fishing lines, they are the worst,” she said.
Once Gadient removed fishing line from a pelican’s wing and two more pelicans showed up with the same predicament, she said. Protecting wildlife is one of the reasons she participates in the cleanup. The other reason is because she was already dedicated to something similar when the event began three years ago.
“I started 14 years ago. I had adopted my canal already,” said Gadient, a waterfront homeowner.
Other repeat participants were Bob and Shirley McVey. Part-time residents from Minnesota, the couple said this was their second year volunteering at the event. They searched the water of the Bimini Basin with a few friends and some kayaks.
“We had a good time last year and decided to come again,” Shirley McVey said.
Some items they found were what appeared to be a water heater still in its package, a chair and lots of beer bottles. Bob McVey said the water was a lot cleaner this year compared to last year. He added that last year they collected about 200 pounds of debris, and they only collected about 25 pounds this year.
“I felt a lot better about it this year,” Shirley McVey said.
Asked if she would change anything about the event, McVey suggested that organizers increase the advertising of it so more people know about the cleanup in advance and can take part in the effort.
“We only knew because we had done it before,” she said.
-timers Daniel Talavera and Zach Osking learned about the cleanup through their science teacher. Both 16, the Cape Coral High School students decided to participate for volunteers hours but also to do their part to help keep the Cape clean.
“It feels nice to help the environment,” Osking said. “A lot of residents seemed to appreciate it, too.”
Talavera said they searched on foot and found wrappers, fishing items and the recliner.
“We love this,” he added with a grin.
Cressman explained that the cleanup helps build a sense of community between the residents.
“This is a big event to let them connect with other people doing the same thing,” she said. “It’s such a great way for people to come together and make a difference.”
The event also hopes to show the public that it is not OK to dispose of a television or air conditioner on the city’s canal banks, Cressman said, and it aims to raise awareness of litter as a problem in the Cape.
“Sometimes they don’t mean to do it,” she said of some instances.