Volunteers Collect 4 Tons of Trash During Lake Cleanup

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300 volunteers in boats and on foot, wading through vegetation and trudging along soggy shorelines collected over 4 tons of trash.

The 11th annual Project EAGLE Cleanup was conducted Saturday, April 24th on the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes, in Winter Haven, Florida.

Organized by the Keep Winter Haven Clean and Beautiful and the Kissimmee River Valley Sportsman’s Association, over 300 volunteers in airboats, pontoon boats, pleasure boats, kayaks and on foot collected over three tons of garbage and another one ton of solid junk that included shopping carts, TVs, automobile tires, batteries, air conditioners, vacuum cleaners and safes during a four hour period.

The annual Project EAGLE Winter Haven Chain of Lakes Cleanup is sponsored by the City of Winter Haven, the Florida Fish and Game Commission, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Region Lakes Management District and the Tampa Electric Company.

According to Pat Gilder, executive director of Keep Winter Haven Clean and Beautiful ten lakes in the Winter Haven area were included in this year’s Project EAGLE Cleanup.

At 8:00 AM the volunteers gathered at the public boat landing and park on the west side of Lake Shipp for a short briefing before heading out on boat and foot to collect the assorted discards that had accumulated along the waterways during the past year.

For four hours the scavenger hunters maneuvered in boats, paddled kayaks, waded through vegetation and trudged along the soggy shoreline of the ten lakes collecting debris cast away by hapless litterbugs.

Gilder stated that among the trash and garbage collected were two safes and a woman’s pocket book. All had apparently been stolen property and were turned over to the Winter Haven Police Department for investigation.

The airboats provided the optimum resource for collecting discarded trash. According to Gilder, 32 members of the Kissimmee River Valley Sportsman’s Association provide 13 airboats for the Clean-up. It was the largest turnout of airboats in the event’s history. “The airboats were a tremendous asset to the Cleanup,” said Gilder.

The flat bottom design and shallow draft of the airboats allowed volunteers to get their vessels into shallow areas and into the vegetation that was not accessible by conventional submerged-prop driven watercraft. With the ability to get into the cattails and skim across the otherwise prop tangling vegetation, the airboats greatly enhanced the productivity of the trash collection effort.

Dan Brantley, president and Randy Doud, past president of the Kissimmee River Valley Sportsman’s Association organized the airboat turnout. Both men make it a point to personally participate in the Cleanup every year. This year Dan’s 14 year-old nephew, Joe Nation, Jr, accompanied Dan and Randy on their annual pilgrimage.

Brantley’s airboat count differed slightly from the Gilder’s count, as several airboats arrived after the official start. Brantley stated that another five airboats arrived after the official start, bringing the total number of airboats participating in the Project EAGLE Cleanup to 18.

By noon the volunteers had collected over four tons of rubbish, 150 tires and various forms of hazardous waste ranging from car batteries to buckets of tar.

Following the noon check-in, the volunteers gathered at Old Man Franks restaurant on Lake Howard for a free barbeque lunch. Old Man Frank’s has been an annual supporter of the Project Eagle Cleanup since its inception, eleven years ago.

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R. Dummett