Clam Bayou

06/18/07 Buddy Baker
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This past weekend's weather was warm and clear. But the long range forecast for the enviroment seemed even sunnier, if the turnout at two Pinellas County events was a barometer. Buddy Baker reports.

(Sounds of walking in muck)

The suck of muck against boots greeted several hundred volunteers Saturday morjning who ventured into the mangrove swamps of Clam Bayou in the first large scale cleanup of the waterway ever held.

On foot, and in canoes and kayaks, about 550 persons from the far stretches of the Tampa Bay area converged on the northern end of the bayou which sits at the juncture of of the cities of St. Petersburg and Gulfport. Storm drains from both cities empty into the waterway, leaving the cast off products of human industry tangled in the plants or floating on the water. Overflow from nearby sewage facilities also make foul deposits.

Lynn Connerly of St. Petersburg used a hand rake to pick garbage out of the water. She was surprised at some of the trash she found.

Garbage is a recognized feature of Clam Bayou. A metal sign at the edge mangrvoes reads "Light Medium Litter Area. After Tightwlaking a plank path deeper into the swamp, volunteers encounter another sign that declares Heavy Litter Area.

Red garbage bags filled quickly, with styrofoam, golf balls, cigarette butts and soda cans among the most commn items picked up. Sarah Simpson of Tampa counted among her finds a condom, and lots of junk food wrappers.

Michele of St. Petersburg was discouraged about what she and her mother Nancy were finding.

Clam Bayou has been the subject of ongoing smaller cleanup efforts. Kurt Zuelsdorg of Kayak Nature Adventures has been offering free canoe rentals with the understanding that canoeists bring back at least one bag of garbage. Over the past three months, paddlers have returned with 11,000 pounds of trash.

Mark Macsimiwitz of the Green Armada said nine thousand five hundred bags of trash were collected by SAturday afternoon. The non-profit environmental group was one of several sponsoring the event.

Zuelsdorf seemed inspired by the amount of junk colleted.

Across town, in the air conditioned comfort of the Colisuem, several thousand people checked out nearly 80 vendors at the Pinellas Living Green Expo.

Lee Lancaster of St. Petersburg was attending the expo for the second time. He was looking for ideas to save money around the house.

Gary Steffan of St. Petersburg came looking for information about solar water heaters and was surprised by what else he found.

Darden Rice, an orgainzier of the two-day event, said The number of vendors participating was up 20 percent. This year, the event expanded to the Sunshine Center across the street for a film festival and informational talks.

Rice anticipated that 2,000 more people atteded this year. She saw this incrase in public interest as hopeful.

Randy Moore with e-Fest Florida, an upcoming environmental festival in Sarasota, was one of the exhibotirs. He saw the crowrds at the expo as proof of a new momentum in the public' environmental awareness.

The expo will move to the Harborview Center in Clearwater next year. For Claw Bayou, Saturday's throngs may be its last. Southwest Florida Water management district will assume cleanup duties. Organizers hope to hold another big cleanup at another big waterway yet to be decided.

For WMNF, this is Buddy Baker reporting fromS t. Petersburg.

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