Keeping it clean
Volunteers pulled trash from the Rainbow River on May 20 during the annual cleanup event.
Some of the items pulled from the Rainbow River during the May 20 cleanup. Photo by Linda Wilinski
The annual Rainbow River Cleanup, held May 20, saw scores of volunteers dredge up possibly the least amount of junk in the event’s 38-year history.
Jerry Rogers, president of the Rainbow River Conservation (RRC), sponsor of the event, said the trash levels on the river have progressively gone down over the last number of years.
“Volunteers collected about 150 pounds of refuse, compared to perhaps hundreds of pounds in earlier years,” Rogers said in a phone interview. He said he feels that education efforts may be paying off and that when people see or make trash, they now often “pick it up.”
RRC is a nonprofit that seeks to “protect and preserve the water quality, the natural beauty, the riverbed, and the flood plains of the Rainbow River through education, conservation, stewardship, and advocacy,” according to its website.
Rainbow River Raiders and Current Problems, the latter a group founded in 1993 to clean the Santa Fe River, were both represented at the cleanup. Current Problems has collected 1,022,848 pounds of waste in an effort to keep Florida’s wetlands and waterways clean in the last 30 years, according to current problems.org.
Some of the more notable items collected Saturday on the Rainbow included:
* Most Harmful Item: Large slab with spikes collected by Rainbow River Raiders
* Most Unusual Item: Complete snakeskin, collected by Rod Jones
* Largest Amount of Trash Collected by an Individual: Madison McCafferty, large bag of glass bottles)
* Largest Item: Wood slab, found by Rainbow River Raiders
Rogers said most of the things found were “personal items,” like a cellphone and sunglasses.
Dr. Mark Knapp and his wife Debbie Knapp, members of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Rainbow River Patrol, participated. In patrolling over the years, Mark Knapp has “always been impressed in how pristine the river is because of the tremendous efforts of the RRC and (the) sheriff’s department,” he stated in a text.
Rogers said the volunteer turn out this year was one of the best ever, with about 150 people participating. The youngest was Jackson Whitehurst, age 6.
Rogers and his wife Faye were part of the crew that prepared a hot dog lunch for the participants. He said the large number of volunteers was reflected in the serving arrangements.
“We ran out of forks,” he said with a chuckle.
To learn more, go to rainbowriverconservation.org