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Coastal Cleanup attracts hundreds of volunteers

October 24, 2018
By MEGHAN BRADBURY ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Although numbers have not been finalized for the International Coastal Cleanup, the annual event attracted more than a thousand volunteers.

Keep Lee County Beautiful Program Coordinator Mike Thomas said the event held Saturday, Oct. 13, went really well.

Tallies, from all 16 sites, are expected by midweek.

"We did much better as far as volunteers. We did much better than expected," Thomas said. "I was kind of expecting a bit of a drop off because of the red tide situation. The whole last week my registration went through the roof. Every day I would go to the registration page and had so many groups that were registering. We were getting a lot of positive news with the red tide and started getting really good weather reports of how nice Saturday was going to be."

The beautiful day, and drop in humidity, brought more than 1,200 volunteers to sites across Lee County.

On a good year the International Coastal Cleanup attracts 2,000 volunteers. Last year, however, with Hurricane Irma, the cleanup, which was pushed back five weeks, attracted 600 volunteers.

"Everybody was still cleaning up their own mess. It turned into more of a hurricane cleanup. It was more of hurricane debris even five weeks later," Thomas said.

This year, the beaches were not super dirty because not as many people have been visiting them because of red tide.

"The volunteers' bags were half full of trash. When we were weighing them out, we weren't finding heavier items that we typically find," he said, adding that they did find a lot of plastic and cigarette butts.

For instance, at the Cape Coral Yacht Basin they found more than 1,900 cigarette butts, Thomas said. Although it did not weigh much, when it's thrown in a huge pile it shows how much trash was collected.

Other volunteers went to Picnic Island by kayak, Sanibel Causeway Islands, Lighthouse Beach, Dog Beach/Four Corners, Bowditch Point, Bunche Beach and Lovers Key.

"They get sent all over," Thomas said of volunteers at Lovers Key.

One of the largest sites, Fort Myers Beach Elementary School, attracted a couple hundred volunteers.

"They get sent up and down the beach," he said.

For example, approximately 30 volunteers were sent to Lynn Hall Memorial Park.

Thomas said everyone took a picture of a map that was divided into sections.

"If it was too far to walk they would drive and they would park. They would walk back on the road and do a roadside cleanup. I was driving on the beach and I saw at least 50 to 60 volunteers. The biggest group I saw was four. You kept seeing them bending over and picking up trash and putting it in their trash bag," he said. "It was a nice circle where we did a really good, thorough beach and roadside cleanup."

Although picking up trash is a huge part of the event, awareness and education is another big factor.

Thomas said those who spent time cleaning up the trash often times feel inclined to do so all the time, while also educating others about the harm it does to the environment and wildlife.



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