TREASURE ISLAND – Dennis Velasco’s boots make a “schlup, schlup” sound as he clears a path through the soggy mangroves of Elnor Island in John’s Pass.
He stops as he spies a rusty beer can bobbing in the three-inch deep water.
“Look at this,” he says, picking up the can. “Zip tab top. When was the last time you saw one of these? Probably been here 30 years.”
A crew of volunteers follows behind Velasco, clad in boots, gloves and work clothes, armed with garbage bags and ready to haul away Elnor Island’s decades-old accumulation of dock lumber, plastic containers, glass and aluminum.
That was the scene four years ago on Elnor Island, a 15-acre natural island situated at the east end of John’s Pass between Treasure Island and Madeira Beach. Dennis Velasco, chair of the Treasure Island Beach Stewardship Committee, along with Treasure Island Mayor Bob Minning, longtime resident Bob Dowling, and about 50 volunteers, led three island cleanups in 2008. Nearly eight tons of debris was removed from the island.
A recent tour of the island revealed some debris pileups from summer storms.
“We thought it would be good to get on top of this, to do some maintenance cleanup,” said Minning, “so the debris situation doesn’t get away from us and become too daunting a task.”
The next Elnor Island cleanup is Saturday, Sept. 29, beginning at 9 a.m. Volunteers should bring their own work gloves, sunscreen, bug repellent and rubber-soled boots or shoes. Volunteers meet at Gator’s Marina docks adjacent to Kingfish Park (just past Gator’s Café & Saloon on Kingfish Drive). City of Treasure Island barges will haul away all debris removed from the island.
“What we’re asking for is two types of volunteers,” said Minning. “People who can use their boats to shuttle people back and forth to the island from Gator’s docks and volunteers who want to work on the perimeter of the island and remove the accumulated debris.”
The project is the perfect activity for church groups, civic associations and environmentally minded citizens.
“Just a few hours volunteering can make such a huge difference in restoring the natural balance to Elnor Island,” said Minning.
Mariners who wish to provide boat shuttle service should coordinate with Minning by calling 415-8883.