PALM COAST - A bowling ball, an old stop sign, a dirty tape player, even an entire boat - all just some of the items collected during past years at the City of Palm Coast's Intracoastal Waterway Cleanup event.
It's an annual tradition for many, including Mike Crotts and his wife Sherrill. Hundreds of volunteers lace up their walking shoes and don protective gloves - garbage bags in tow - as they hunt for trash lining our waterways and trails. But in Crotts case, his method of mobility is his powerboat.
"We love nature and it's an eyesore to see trash in a beautiful area," Crotts said. "We've had a good life and wanted to pick up trash after we retired to keep it beautiful."
For the past three years, they've used their boat to cleanup, starting the day before the event by cruising the canals in the C-section. The couple have volunteered every year since the event's inception in 2008 - except one year due to weather.
When they moved to Palm Coast 13 years ago, Crotts said they enjoyed walking the St. Joe Walkway and would pick up trash during their strolls. When they heard about the first inaugural cleanup event, they knew they had to be involved.
"I am very passionate about the ocean and our waterways," Sherrill Crotts said. "I feel it is an honor to help the environment."
Volunteers have collected more than 20,000 pounds of trash throughout the past 12 years - each year averages about 2,000 pounds. While Crotts and his wife stick to the canals and the intracoastal, many other volunteers' like the Winter family help clean up local trails connected to Waterfront Park that are valuable amenities for everyone in our community.
"We discovered that area by accident when we first moved out here," Kelly Winter said. "My daughter likes the park - we just feel like it's a special place that needs to be kept clean and it's beautiful. You don't feel like you're working too hard when you have a view like that."
Winter, along with her husband Ken, 14-year-old son Jonas, and 11-year-old daughter Emma will be back out volunteering for their fourth year. It began as a way to give back and now Winter's kids look forward to it.
"We want to show them that everybody has a responsibility in their community to do their part - to keep things clean - that they're giving back to their community," Winter said.
The event starts with the cleanup. Near the trails, volunteers may also spot wildlife such as squirrels, birds and butterflies. If they are cleaning up by the water, they could see fish, crabs and possibly a dolphin. After the cleanup, volunteers will be invited to enjoy refreshments at the event headquarters - the Palm Coast Community Center. There, the trash will be examined and of everything found, experts will judge the most unique F.I.N.D. which stands for Florida Inland Navigation Grant, one of the ways the cleanup is supported. The person who collected the most unique item will win a prize. In Crotts case, when asked what unique finds he's made, he said "it's been so many things," but lawn chairs sticks out. He said he also found some kittens living under the bank of the Intracoastal. For Winter, it was a purple buoy tucked into the woods.
Additionally, at the event headquarters there will be booths from Ripple Effect, Marineland, and Wild Birds Unlimited to help educate participants on environmental topics. Volunteers can interact with them and ask questions. There will also be displays highlighting recycling efforts to 'reduce and reuse.' You can test your knowledge for a chance to win prizes.
"One of the things we hear time and time again from participants is that they love how dynamic the event is," said Environmental Planning Technician and Event Coordinator Jordan Myers. "Not only does this program allow our residents to give back by sprucing up areas that might never get touched by a cleanup crew, it also allows them to learn from different groups that are involved such as Marineland and Whitney Labs. So there is an educational aspect to this and residents can also have fun and win prizes."
Overall, the event is family-friendly and allows volunteers and local youth organizations to make an impact on our community by preserving and protecting the environment.
"We are so grateful for each and every one of you that carve out time to help keep your Palm Coast both clean and beautiful," said Mayor Milissa Holland. "Every year, this event reminds us that, together, we can achieve amazing things toward a great cause. With your helping hands, we can continue this tradition and make an incredible impact that will be felt all over your city."
Volunteer with us…
The deadline for online registration is Sept. 6. You can register at [parksandrec.fun/events]. If you show up on the day of the event, you are more than welcome to volunteer, but the city cannot guarantee supplies. The event begins at 8 a.m. at the Palm Coast Community Center, 305 Palm Coast Pkwy. Minors must be accompanied by an adult.
For those that do register in advance, the city provides gloves, garbage bags, hand sanitizing wipes, a special waterway cleanup event t-shirt and water bottle. For those who clean up the waterways, the city also provides a grabber like device.
Students and youth organizations such as boy/girl scouts can get community service hours for volunteering. Forms must be signed at the event by an organizer. Please see Jordan Myers or Denise Bevan.
This year's event mascot is the roseate spoonbill. It was named Palmer during a public naming contest earlier in the summer. Past years have had different mascots of animals found in nature such as a dolphin, turtle and manatee.
- Most Unique F.I.N.D. (judged by FWC) will win a Marineland Dolphin Encounter for 2, spoonbill PopSocket, spoonbill fact book, insulated reusable grocery bags, and the stuffed spoonbill mascot.
- Most Trash Collected (awarded by results form) will win a Ripple Effect Ecotour for 2, spoonbill PopSocket, spoonbill fact book, and insulated reusable grocery bags.
- Reduce/Reuse Questions Prize Baskets: There are four baskets up for grabs by answering the questions correctly.
- Basket #1: sporks, beeswax wrap, tumbler, and a beach towel.
- Basket #2: sporks, beeswax wrap, tumbler, and a hammock.
- Basket #3: sporks, beeswax wrap, tumbler, silicone baking mats, and a pair of sunglasses.
- Basket #4: sporks, beeswax wrap, tumbler, and a fanny pack.