Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Thousands Volunteer Time to Clear Away Rivers' Trash St. Johns, St. Marys Benefit from Cleanup

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Thousands Volunteer Time to Clear Away Rivers' Trash St. Johns, St. Marys Benefit from Cleanup

Article excerpt

Not even a recent surgery could keep Pearl Levin from taking part in an annual river cleanup that has become a tradition for her, as well as the First Coast and Southeast Georgia.

Levin, who lives in Ponte Vedra and had throat surgery four weeks ago, was getting dirty yesterday along with the rest of the nearly 6,000 volunteers who cleaned up the St. Johns and St. Marys rivers.

"I don't understand why people throw their trash out like this," she said. "They don't have any respect for nature."

But plenty of other people do: Volunteers were able to pull more than 453,000 pounds of trash from the waterways yesterday, including shopping carts, televisions, a carpet, a park bench and a dinette set.

On the Florida-Georgia border, about 50 volunteers cleaning St. Marys river found a tire and an old motor, among lots of cans, bottles and bags. By 9 a.m. they had run out of trash bags and gloves and still had volunteers asking for more.

Along the St. Marys River, about 700 volunteers showed up to scour the grassy banks and waters.

People in 15 Florida counties came out in the wee hours of the morning to be part of the St. Johns River cleanup efforts.

Hallie Stevens of Atlantic Beach got out in a canoe hunting for trash along the St. Marys River shore.

Stevens, a representative with The Nature Conservancy, said that although volunteers can't keep up with litterbugs who continue to scatter their junk along the rivers, these kinds of events help educate people about conserving nature and serve as a yearly anti-litter reminder.

"People need to have a sense of ownership of the river," she said.

Nigel Banning, 12, had a simpler reason for being there.

"I can get dirty and don't have to worry about getting yelled at," said the St. Marys boy, black muck on his hands from hauling a tire out of the river. …

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