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More than 33,000 pounds of trash collected in four months

By Staff | Jun 10, 2019

More than 33,000 pounds of trash has been removed from roadways, shorelines and communities across Lee County in the last four months thanks to Keep Lee County Beautiful and its volunteers.

Almost 2,000 volunteers have donated their time for 76 events that have taken place during the first four months of 2019 removing 33,492 pounds of trash. In those four months, 81 acres of public land and 47 miles of shoreline have been cleaned up and one illegal dumpsite has been abated.

Keep Lee County Beautiful Program Coordinator Mike Thomas said during April alone they had 58 events, which included the Great American Cleanup. He said with Earth Day on April 22, they wanted to turn the entire month into an “Earth Month.”

“We did the Great American Cleanup on April 13 and that day we had 31 events. The rest were spread across the month because we had so many organizations, groups and companies that want to do volunteer events,” he said.

Thomas said while comparing the amount of trash picked up for the first four months of the year to last year, they are a little bit ahead.

“That’s because we are ahead on events on sites. Last year we were pushing 140 sites. For this year we are on track to break that,” Thomas said of the amount of sites to be cleaned.

During the summer months the number of cleanups tend to slow down. He said they tend to do cleanups along the waterway because more people are on the water, and more fishing is taking place.

“A lot of it is accidental trash. A lot of people may not have realized it blew out of their boat. With the wind and the current, it blows into the mangroves,” he said.

The next big public event will take place on July 5 with registration for volunteers going live soon on the Keep Lee County Beautiful website,www.KLCB.org.

With July 4 landing on a Thursday this year, the cleanup will be held Friday morning starting at 8 a.m. The cleanup typically ends at 10 a.m.

Thomas said when the Fourth of July lands on a weekend, there is a lot more trash to be picked up the following day. But, when the holiday lands on a weekday, people do not stay out as late because they have to go to work the following day.

So far three sites have been determined: Bunche Beach, Fort Myers Beach with the meet-up location at Lynn Hall Memorial Park and the Sanibel Causeway.

“I might get that bumped up to five or so,” Thomas said. “There are some private sites that are going to have cleanup sections. By the time we are done we may have eight to 10 sites, but not all of them will be listed.”

Keep Lee County Beautiful is beginning a new initiative in Lehigh Acres because illegal dumping, which has taken place for years, is becoming worse. He said those who are dumping do not necessarily live in Lehigh Acres, but know of a location where they can get away with dumping their trash and yard waste.

“We are trying to get the trash and debris sites cleaned up. The trash haulers are willing to give us additional Dumpsters, they give them to us at no cost,” Thomas said. “It’s something else we are going to try and tackle. That’s probably going to make our weight totals go up quite a bit because we are finding a lot of heavy stuff out there.”

So far volunteers have been more than happy to help with the cleanup because they do not want the trash near them.

Those who know of any illegal dumpsite areas in Lehigh Acres are asked to call Keep Lee County Beautiful at (239) 334-3488.

“If we know where they are, we are going to do our best to root them out and get that area cleaned up,” he said.

Thomas said if he knows of a spot, he visits the area before going to work to determine how big of a receptical they may need for the area.

Keep Lee County Beautiful is working with the county for the illegal dumpsites. He said they usually have a deputy, or two, with them during the cleanup, who are volunteering their time.

Thomas encourages individuals to visit the website frequently because he may not list a public volunteer opportunity until a week or two before the event takes place.

“We do get a lot of repeat volunteers. A lot of people call me and send me an email and say what is going on this month,” he said.

Some of those volunteers share a desire to do beach cleanups, or cleanups near where they live. Others have a small boat, or kayak, which Thomas said are all placed on different lists.

“We have a really good community. We have great residents. They want to volunteer and they want to make a difference and that is what makes a difference for us. If it wasn’t for the residents we wouldn’t be able to get anything done,” he said, adding that he constantly is saying thank you to volunteers and sponsors.

The sponsors are an important element because they need them to purchase their supplies, Thomas added.

The next big events will take place in September, the Coastal Cleanup, and October, Monofilament Madness.

“If the weather and water is both good, we will have 2,000 to 2,500 volunteers,” he said of Coastal Cleanup. “Last year with red tide, I had to push the event back four weeks and we were still at a little over 1,800 volunteers.”