Cape residents pitch in for Trash Bash
They could be seen all over Cape Coral, picking up old soda cans, paper cups and other litter left on vacant lots and along the side of the road.
More than 100 residents came together at the Burnt Store boat ramp Saturday morning for the 19th annual Earth Day Trash Bash, a Great American Cleanup event sponsored by Keep Lee County Beautiful.
It was one of a dozen events held throughout Lee County, with other to be held this coming weekend in Lehigh Acres and Fort Myers.
According to David Scott, who co-chaired the Trash Bash with City Councilmember Rick Williams, the event was started as a way for residents to meet the police officers who aided in the cleanup along with code enforcement and marine units.
Today, it has become one of the biggest such events in the area, a testament to the neighborhood.
“The northwest used to have a lot of litter a couple decades back and during the construction boom, but it’s made a difference over the years,” Scott said. “Hopefully one day we’ll have competitions on who can pick up the most.”
Even before the scheduled 9 a.m. start, people came in to grab their trash bags and T-shirts before heading out into the community to clean whatever areas needed cleaning.
By noon, everyone had reconvened at the boat ramp for a pizza party.
Michelle Hankinson and her children, Brooke, 8, and Ty, 13, wanted to clean up the community and meet the people who serve them.
“We’ve been here for two years, we don’t know anybody. We belong to the Northwest Neighborhood Association and they announced it, so we went down,” Hankinson said.
Officer Kelvin Tompkins of the Cape Coral Police Department came by and admired that Brooke had come prepared with a “picker-upper” so she wouldn’t have to handle the trash, asking if she had one for him.
Tompkins said they have been part of the project since its inception and that the event, like so many others, show the police in a different light.
“It helps clean up the environment and pull the community together. It changes the perception that we’re about writing tickets and arresting people,” Tompkins said. “We do things like this on a regular basis.”
While Tompkins took off to the Mariner High School area, Officer Jason Criazzo may have unearthed the mother lode during his clean-up travels, filling his pickup with old tires, which is not only littering, but a fire hazard worthy of several felonies if caught.
“People pay to have these people take their tires away, but don’t want to pay to dispose of them so they dump them in the woods,” Criazzo said.
Out in the community, people sought out areas that are usually dirty, such as near convenience stores where people tend to toss their used coffee cups and candy wrappers.
A few were in the area of Burnt Store Road and Tropicana Boulevard, doing just that.
Carol Scherzinger and her husband, Joe, have been involved in the Trash Bash for 13 years as a way to keep the neighborhood neat and have the T-shirts to prove it.
Not long after the event began, they had nearly two full bags in their car and had picked up a large wooden post.
“People like to throw their water bottles out and don’t think of the consequences,” Carol said. “Our street looked great. But this place always looks messy.”
Nearby, John Fox took dibs in a large vacant lot and had already filled one large garbage bag.
“I always wanted to get involved cleaning up. I decided to get my exercise and pick up what everyone leaves. It’s a shame,” Fox said. “All the United States is paradise and it needs to be kept clean.”