GREEN COVE SPRINGS – On a calm, cool day, the center of the St. Johns River sparkled in the sun. Seemingly pristine, the water mirrored the blue sky. Yet, upon closer inspection, the river was far …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – On a calm, cool day, the center of the St. Johns River sparkled in the sun. Seemingly pristine, the water mirrored the blue sky. Yet, upon closer inspection, the river was far from clean. Trash of all kinds, from water bottles to cigarette butts, littered the shores.
“One piece, one person, one day.”
This is the motto of Tania Jolley, executive director for Keep Clay Beautiful, a subsidiary of the Clay County Department of Environmental Services. She believes that if every person would pick up one piece of trash a day, it could change the world.
However, on March 17, citizens of Clay County took part in a cleanup effort that far exceeded this motto. In just one day, 197 volunteers removed 3,480 pounds of trash from the banks of the St. Johns River and Black Creek.
“It’s important to make sure that his place looks as beautiful as it does now [for future generations],” Jolley said March 17 during the 2018 Annual St. Johns River Celebration. “That’s what today is about.”
The river cleanup takes place every year on the third Saturday in March and enlists hundreds of volunteers each time. Typically, families with younger children work along the Black Creek bike trail, while older volunteers work along the banks of the river or off U.S. Highway 17.
In the past, volunteer numbers averaged around 300, but Jolley believes that several conflicting events led to lower numbers this year. The event just happened to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day and Daytona Beach’s Bike Week.
Despite this, less than 200 volunteers were able to pick up 1.7 tons of trash in just a few hours. Angela Spears, the community coordinator for Keep Florida Beautiful, said that individuals can make this kind of difference each day.
“We don’t have to stop just today, we don’t have to stop right here,” said Spears. “If you see trash in your neighborhood, in your street or in your park, pick it up. Let’s all do our part.”
According to Spears, Keep Florida Beautiful, the statewide program of which Keep Clay Beautiful is a part of, picked up more than 3 million pounds of debris due to the efforts of over 87,000 volunteers.
Ed Milone, along with his daughter Maddie and six Boy Scouts, spent their morning cleaning alongside several other organizations such as the Girl Scouts and the Clay County 4-H Club. Milone, the committee chairman for Boy Scout Troop 25, said that this was the first year they participated in the river cleanup, but they would definitely be back next year.
“If 50 percent of people in Clay County spent two hours [cleaning], we’d have a much nicer environment,” Milone said.
In the past 21 years, more than 10,306 volunteers have removed more than 293,711 pounds of trash & debris from Clay County waterways and roadways.