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Help clean up Our Planet at Pasco’s Earth Day event April 24

By Kent Smith Posted on April 8, 2021

After 25 years of award-winning service by Keep Pasco Beautiful, Earth Day can handle just about anything – even a worldwide pandemic.

Held annually on the fourth Saturday of April at Crews Lake Wilderness Park, this year’s Covid-19 edition is slated April 24 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at 16739 Crews Lake Drive in Shady Hills. This year Pasco’s Earth Day Celebration is complete with social distancing procedures, free voluntary masks, sanitizer, and fewer interactive displays to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus.

Last year’s festival was held April 22 as a virtual electronic event due to the then-growing pandemic; this year it is organized as a physical gathering where concerned residents gather to network and discuss ways to work together for a common goal. Considered one of the area’s most picturesque vistas, the park will provide an ideal backdrop for the return of one of the Nature Coast’s premier ecological celebrations.

DeeVon Quirolo of Brooksville is the conservation chairperson for the Sierra Club Adventure Coast Group serving Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus counties. She said she has taken part in “zillions” of Earth Day events because of areas like Crews Lake, where flooding concerns have arisen due to new development and heavy Florida rains.

Two boys show their community spirit at the Gulf Harbors Cleanup. Image courtesy of Pasco County.

Earth Day’s Origins

“Earth Day was first organized years ago to take time to honor Mother Earth and all that she gives us: fresh spring water, land loaded with biodiversity and clean air to breathe,” she said. “This year is the time to recognize the need. We’re getting past the tipping point environmentally.” 

According to a release, Keep Pasco Beautiful won the Innovative Partnerships Award from the Florida Chapter of the North American Hazardous Materials Management Association. This award is given for collaboration among companies, government agencies, non-profit groups, and political entities to reach goals “supportive of the NAHMMA mission.”

One year the event brought roughly 3,000 people to the park, resulting in the disposal of 300 pounds of batteries, 380 pounds of poisons, and 5,000 pounds of paper trash in a few hours!

Six local Rotary clubs worked together to raise funds and clean up the Magnolia Valley Park in New Port Richey a couple of years ago. Several local businesses contributed materials and man hours.

Pasco’s Earth Day Celebration is a Cooperative Effort of many

This year Earth Day comes from a joint effort of Keep Pasco Beautiful, Pasco County Department of Public Works, Covanta Pasco, Pasco County Environmental Compliance, Pasco County Recycling and Education Department, and Pasco County Parks and Recreation. Its continued success is due to the long-term commitment of event chair Lottie Kelley, who has coordinated the event for over 20 years.  Ongoing financial support of Presenting Sponsor Covanta Pasco has allowed the event to evolve through the years. 

Founded in 1992 as Keep Pasco Clean and Green, the group received its affiliate certificate from Keep America Beautiful in 1994 as a volunteer-based, non-profit coalition of people concerned about the county’s environmental future. The national program was the brainchild of Lady Bird Johnson and dates back to President Lyndon Johnson signing of the Beautification Act of 1965. This year marks the 51st year of national Earth Day.

With members from education, government, industry, businesses, civic groups and private individuals, the group is self-supporting, non-governmental agency that raises $3.50 through tax-deductible donations and volunteer man-hours to pay its own way. In addition to Earth Day, the effort has grown steadily until it now hosts four other signature events. They are the Arbor Day Eco Crawl, the Great American Cleanup, the Coastal Cleanup and the award-winning Pasco Upcycle Arts and Drafts Festival (similar to recycling, upcycle refers to the practice of repurposing items or materials for new uses, like keeping nails in an old coffee can).

A student cleans the Anclote Gulf Park Fishing Pier. Image courtesy of Pasco County.

The Mission is to improve Pasco County’s environment through Sustainable Community Efforts

The goal is simple enough: “Our mission is to improve Pasco County by engaging the community in sustainable efforts to reduce litter, promote waste reduction and encourage beautification.” Cutting pollution and conserving water are also primary goals.

To achieve all this, the county hired Kristen King to serve as Keep Pasco Beautiful coordinator. King said Earth Day 2021 will give folks “a chance to get together to learn what they can do as an individual.

“In today’s world we’re seeing every day the negative impact people are having on this planet, including pollution and climate change,” King explained. “Earth Day gives us education on how we can all take part in protecting the environment, things you can do to help.”

King noted that according to the EPA food is the largest material in the municipal solid waste stream at 22%, much of which can still be used, like turning past-their-prime oranges into orange juice.  There are three r’s to waste management – reduce, reuse and recycle.  Recycle should be the last option, to create a sustainable environment we must first look at ways we can reduce and reuse.    

Crews Lake Wilderness Park from the Tower. Image by Diane Bedard.

Pasco County’s 2021 Earth Day Celebration Schedule of Programs

Little wonder it took so many people to put it on, considering the impressive schedule of programs. They include:

Plants and animals claim the stage starting with Croc Encounters, a non-profit reptile sanctuary that is bringing some of its “residents” for educational, entertaining classes. Spike, a 10-foot alligator, will get your attention and entertain the kids.

Ornithology classes by the Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife will be strictly for the birds–and bird lovers, young and old. The Nature Coast Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society is also bringing in unique Florida fauna to sell along with free tips on choosing, growing and caring for greenery. There will be educational vendors for children along with a ladybug release.

“This is a family friendly event so there will be lots of activities to keep the children entertained,” a release on the event noted. “Children will have a blast and learn something along the way.”

The Rock Painting Station at Crews Lake Wilderness Park was popular at a previous Pasco County Earth Day celebration. Image courtesy of Pasco County.

For the adults, scholars from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences will conduct two workshops. The first one at 10 a.m. is the Rain Water Harvesting Workshop to discuss how to install and use a rain barrel for $45. At noon the Compost Happens Workshop covers the benefits and best methods of composting. Both programs require pre-registration at: http://pasco.ifas.ufl.edu. Click on events calendar, scroll to April for registration form.

Pasco upcycle festival
The Pasco Upcycle Arts and Drafts Festival is very popular, held in downtown New Port Richey annually. Image courtesy of Pasco County.

Pasco County Solid Waste and Covanta Pasco will provide free collection of hazardous household waste items, including electronics such as cell phones and televisions; there is a limit of two TVs per person. Bring your chemicals, cleaners, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, paints, thinners, removers, solvents, car fluids and oil, wood preservatives, pool chemicals, batteries (household and lead-acid), chlorofluorocarbons, and fluorescent bulbs. The first 50 people donating thermometers, thermostats or other devices containing mercury will get a $5 Publix gift card, limit 1 per vehicle; this does not include mercury light bulbs.

Tired of the paper chase? Shred 360 is offering a free shredding program 9 a.m.-12 p.m., so empty a limit of five of your old boxes or bags of worthless documents and paperwork.

Earth Day Keep Pasco Beautiful

Get in Touch with Keep Pasco Beautiful for More Information

For further details on the disposal programs call (813) 929-2755, ext. 2046 or go to www.pascocountyutilities.com.

A list of educational vendors will take part in explaining what one person can do to protect this planet, along with upcycling vendors. For questions and vendor information contact Lottie Kelly at [email protected] or (727) 856-2917, ext. 201. Any other general inquiries can be answered at [email protected]. An information booth will also be open at the event.

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