NAPLES — From Barefoot Beach to the Ten Thousand Islands, hundreds of Southwest Floridians spent Saturday morning at the beach — with a garbage bag in hand.
A county-wide effort organized by Keep Collier Beautiful, “Coastal Clean-up,” brought volunteers together to comb for trash large and small. Dan Byers, who ran a clean-up station at Vanderbilt Beach, said one high school group reported collecting 610 cigarette butts.
“It doesn’t take a lot of time really to make a big difference,” said Byers of the three-hour event, which had volunteers patrolling coastlines and canals.
Some areas were cleaner than others; while a Cub Scout pack of about 30 boys with their parents filled a few trash bags at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, a team of about 70 students from Palmetto Ridge High School filled bag after bag on a five-mile stretch of the Cocohatchee Canal, along the north side of Immokalee Road.
A three-foot inflatable crayon. Fast food bags. Strewn T-shirts. Tire pieces. Safety cones. Lottery tickets.
With one glove on, members of several clubs and teams from the school walked the canal, speculating on how the items ended up where they did.
Maybe the crayon had flown out the window of a car when a parent and child were arguing over it, they speculated.
“A lot of girls have lived here all there lives and never done community service,” said Millie Cao, head coach of the Palmetto Ridge cheerleading squads. Her three teams came out by 8 a.m., some after cheering at a football game until late Friday night, to rack up required community service hours and be with their teammates.
“I hope it makes them think twice before throwing stuff out,” Cao said.
The most unusual find of the day, however, wasn’t along the canal. A group that left on boat from the Naples Sailing and Yacht Club found a 100-pound safe.
“We called the police. We though maybe there would be some serial numbers,” said Jim Zimmerman, Keep Collier Beautiful’s executive director, who was on site when the “trash” was hauled in.
The mystery was short-lived, though.
Naples police reported to the scene, but told the group there were no markings on the safe to identify it.
The organization estimates about 1,200 volunteers participated in the beach and canal cleanup, but has yet to tally how much garbage was collected.