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River cleanup set for Saturday, lunch at new location

Beer can on the beach at Steel Bridge Road boat ramp.The St. Mary’s River cleanup will take place the morning of March 17 at the Steel Bridge Road boat ramp as usual, but the celebration and lunch following the cleanup has been moved from its former location at White Oak Plantation.

Baker County cleanup leader Greg Sheppard said the after-cleanup festivities will be at Trader’s Hill Campground near Folkston this year because the Yulee plantation is no longer sponsoring the event.

“Financially, they can’t do it,” he said.

The four-hour cleanup will start at 8 am at 27 sites along the St. Mary’s River in Florida and Georgia, including the Steel Bridge Road site commonly called the boy scout camp. It’s one of the few public access points to the river in Baker County.

The annual cleanup is organized and sponsored by the St. Mary’s River Water Management Committee and its member counties. The committee consists of representatives from Baker and Nassau counties in Florida and Charlton and Camden counties in Georgia.

Beer bottle in the river.Additional sponsors include Nassau County Farm Bureau, Schwend Insurance Agency, Keep Nassau Beautiful and Advanced Disposal, which donates roll-off containers to collect the garbage, said Dean Woehrle, a retired farm bureau agent whose coordinated the cleanup and celebration since it began 15 years ago.

“That’s probably the biggest expense,” he said of the roll-off containers.

Participants will be treated to hotdogs, hamburgers, water and sodas at Trader’s Hill following the cleanup.

“We’ll go over the numbers of what everybody picked up and see what the most unusual stuff was,” said Mr. Woehrle. “It’s a little social gathering we have afterwards to eat and share stories.”

Volunteers for the Baker County cleanup can arrive at the Steel Bridge Road boat ramp the morning of March 17 and participate, but pre-registration is needed for those interested in receiving lunch and a T-shirt.

“We’re expecting a decrease [in participation] this year due to the economy,” said Mr. Sheppard. “We don’t have the sponsorships we had in years past to do the advertising, so we don’t expect to draw as many folks.”

He hopes that Baker County residents will use the day to not only pickup litter and other waste from the banks of the St. Mary’s River, but clean-up other areas as well.

For this weekend’s cleanup, trash bags and water will be supplied by organizers, but other helpful tools like rakes, litter sticks or tongs are recommended, along with work gloves and sunscreen.

Volunteers should also avoid wearing sandals.

Anyone can participate, but volunteers under 18 years old must be accompanied by adults.

For more information, or to register a group, family or individual, call Mr. Sheppard at 259-1791 or Dean Woehrle at (904) 910-2531.

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