Volunteers with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful after cleaning up a location in Hillsborough County.

UPDATE: Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, all of Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful’s cleanups have been cancelled to keep the volunteers and staff safe.

Many people naturally want their community to be clean and nice to look at. Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful (KTBB) shares this mindset, and so it is hosting its 25th annual Great American Cleanup on Saturday, April 25 to help spruce things up.

KTBB is a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization seeking to improve the local environment and inspire residents to take better care of it through volunteer and educational opportunities. Since 1989, KTBB has worked towards conservation, waste reduction and beautification.

Last year’s event had a turnout of 3,729 volunteers, clearing 88,296 lbs. of litter and debris, removing 605 lbs. of invasive plants and planting 479 trees, all in Tampa Bay.

“We generally treat every cleanup as a great event, a fun event,” said Laura Riiska, education and marketing coordinator. “We want to make a difference in the environment and in our community.”

Projects in the cleanup may include removing litter, clearing trails, habitat restoration, landscape maintenance and planting (weeding, trimming, etc.), playground/park restoration (painting, mulching, etc.), planting trees and more.

The event will be held in 50 or more locations across Hillsborough County, such as Alafia River State Park, Apollo Beach Preserve, Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center, Emanuel P. Johnson Recreation Center, Little Manatee River State Park and Sydney Dover Trail. A map of the locations can be found at http://bit.ly/KTBBGAC.

“It is open to all ages, so you can be a little kid with your parents, you can be a teen, an adult; we’ve had 90 and 100-year-old people out there helping out and making a difference,” said Riiska.

What’s more, students participating in the Great American Cleanup will earn service hours.

“We really couldn’t do any of this work without our volunteers,” she said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be here, and without them, we would have a lot more trash around, so we really love our volunteers.”

Along with volunteers, KTBB is also looking for local sponsors and site captains. If you want to take part, please visit https://www.keeptampabaybeautiful.org/ to register.

On the day of the Great American Cleanup, site captains start setting up at 8:00 a.m., volunteer check-in begins at 8:30 a.m. and the cleanup is from 9 a.m. to 12 Noon.

For more information, visit its website, email Shelby Damrill, environmental projects coordinator, at sdamrill@keeptbb.org or call 221-8733.

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Taylor Wells
Taylor Wells is a relatively recently hired news reporter for the Osprey Observer, having been with the paper only since October 8, 2018. Aside from writing articles, he helps edit and upload them to the Osprey Observer site, and is always available to help other staff members in his spare time. He graduated from Saint Leo University with a bachelor’s degree in professional writing and lives in Valrico.