Downtown resident leads ongoing effort to clean up Hillsborough River

Back on July 2, 2019, Scott Harris paused along The Tampa Riverwalk on his daily bicycle ride in downtown Tampa to peek over the white railing into the Hillsborough River. What he saw mortified him.

Cups, empty motor oil bottles discarded from boats, syringes, cans, plastic bottles, styrofoam chunks - and lots of weird stuff - had washed up into the mangroves.

Harris, a financial planner and Channelside resident, immediately started picking up pieces from the heaps of garbage that had washed up.

He hasn't stopped since.

Along with his partner, Marjorie Sandler, Principal at Gorrie Elementary, and volunteers coordinated through social media, Harris' efforts have grown to include about 2,000 environmentally conscious people.

Weekly and monthly, they now show up to help clean Tampa's waterways.

The result? Thousands of pounds of garbage have since been removed from the river and prevented from drifting into Hillsborough Bay and Tampa Bay.

Harris says he has reached out to local officials to ask for support but has been disappointed at the lack of response.

Still, with his sense of humor and creativity intact, Harris awards a gift card for the most unusual find during each gathering.

Earlier in July, a bicycle was pulled from the river, along with a deceased alligator that was handed over to Florida Fish and Wildlife.

Kava Kulture Kava Bar on Franklin Street donated a gift card for this past Saturday's cleanup, which was awarded to Environmental consultant Ed Cronyn when he retrieved what appeared at first glance to be a human hand. Harris and Cronyn soon determined it was an animal body part.

The garbage collected is picked up by Kemlair Toulouette of Holistic Waste Solutions, where an estimated 65 percent of the debris is recycled or repurposed.

"Tampa's precious waters are our jewels," Harris says. "That so much garbage is thrown in our waters is overwhelming, but we have to do what we can.”

You can follow Harris and the Riverwalk cleanup on Instagram at tampa_riverwalk_cleanup.
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