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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Street Signs and Tires Pulled from Lakes During Project Eagle Clean-Up 

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Street Signs and Tires Pulled from Lakes During Project Eagle Clean-Up

by James Coulter

From odd clothing items to PVC piping, to street signs and bicycle seats, almost anything and everything was dragged out of the Chain of Lakes during the annual Project Eagle clean-uplast Saturday.

Several dozen volunteers combed the shorelines of the Chain of Lakes in Winter Haven to scour for litter and other debris. Other volunteers took to the lakes on boat to pull trash from the depths of the water.

The cleanup started early that morning and concluded around noon at Lake Shipp Park, where participants could enjoy a barbecue lunch, peruse various vendors from local organizations, and listen to live music.

For the past three decades, Keep Winter Haven Clean and Beautiful (KWCAB), a non-profit organization dedicated to local conservation, has been hosting the annual cleanup event on the last week of April for Earth Day.

Every year, Project Eagle pulls out nearly a ton of debris from the water and shores of the Chain of Lakes. Most of the garbage is the typical litter such as soft drink cans and candy wrappers, but sometimes they pull out much larger items including tires, bicycle parts, and even street signs.

“We are really excited about today,” said Rhonda Todd. “It has been a great turnout with volunteers. We have had several drop-offs of garbage already. We had the dumpster close to half fulllast time I checked. That was the whole goal. To get all the garbage out of the lakes and off the shorelines in the community.”

Last year was their first year hosting the event after the COVID pandemic forced them to postpone their event for 2020. Last year saw a decent turnout, despite these uncertain times. This year’s event drew in a much larger turnout with more volunteers and vendors.

Regardless of these uncertain times, each Project Eagle cleanup draws in a great turnout. Todd owes their success these past three decades to the outstanding community, with most everybody invested in keeping their lakes clean and beautiful, true to her organization’s name.

“They love the community,” she said. “We have a lot of support from the community picking up stuff and coming to help with the event. It has been a real success this year. We have an incredible community that enjoys the area and supports it as needed. We are very fortunate and blessed to have such a great group of individuals and businesses within our Winter Haven community.”

Having been hosted for the past three decades, several generations of residents have participated every year, and their numbers continue to grow. Todd hopes that even more people turn out next year.

“I want to see it grow this year and have more people come back,” she said. “We have people coming with their children who participated as children years ago. So to see the growth and the next generation coming in, that is really important.”

Jeffrey Burry, a KWHCB board member, participated for the first time this year at Project Eagle. Having moved to Downtown Winter Haven, he wanted to become more involved with the local community. Currently, he participates in several boards, and he wanted to become more involved with the environmental board.

“I love seeing everyone getting together,” she said. “We had great weather. We have the pontoon people out. Music is playing. Everyone is involved. Coming out of COVID, we had a good time getting out again.”

Robert Brown serves as the faculty advisor for the Key Club of Winter Haven High School, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club. Although this is his first year participating, his class has been attending for two years to gain service hours and learn about local water conservation.

“We are really big at Winter Haven keeping our city clean and beautiful,” Brown said. “The kids really love picking up trash, keeping the environment nice and clean. The thing I enjoy most is seeing all the boats, seeing how many people participate, seeing how large the event is. It is really awesome seeing all these people come out and participate and make sure the community stays clean…It is really interesting after COVIDhow many people are available to come out and just get involved with the community and help people around.”

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