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Upper Manatee River to get green treatment

EAST MANATEE — The Upper Manatee River, as it flows beside Camp Flying Eagle off Upper Manatee River Road, seems pristine.

Against a backdrop of stacked canoes, the natural setting is unspoiled by aluminum cans, bottles or other trash.

But being a river affected by the tides, constant vigilance is needed, said Mark Stuckey, who owns nearby Ray’s Canoe Hideaway with his wife, Laura.

“Being a tidal river all the way to the Lake Manatee Dam, you don’t have any idea what could float in,” Stuckey said. “Something could come in from Cuba and every time the tide comes in, it could move in a little further, eventually ending up here.”

That’s why Keep Manatee Beautiful, as it has done for the past 15 years or so, will make the Upper Manatee River one of its centerpieces during the upcoming 2009 Great American Cleanup, said Ingrid McClellan, executive director of Keep Manatee Beautiful.

Volunteers are asked to assemble at 9 a.m. Saturday at Ray’s Canoe Hideaway, 1289 Hagel Park Road, on the north side of the Upper Manatee River Road, to pick up litter along the riverfront until noon.

“We will be cleaning up the area from Christian Retreat to the Lake Manatee Dam,” McClellan said. “Volunteers with boats and canoes are needed to help in the river cleanup effort and to transport other participants and their collected trash.”

Ray’s Canoe Hideaway will offer free boat launches and canoes to volunteers on a first-come, first-served basis, the Stuckeys said.

This is one of the Stuckeys’ favorite events, but it’s not a one-time thing.

“Our tourists say the Manatee is one of the cleanest rivers they have ever seen,” Stuckey said. “Even regular people pick up stuff when they are out in our canoes. We get canoes back with scummy, slimy bottles in the bottom.

“What’s nice is that they are coming back with less and less,” Stuckey said of the Great American Cleanup volunteers and his customers. “People are becoming aware if you throw it in there, you got to swim with it.”

A countywide cleanup will follow from 9 a.m. to noon April 18 at many sites around the county.

In Manatee County last year, 1,558 volunteers collected 123,672 pounds of trash and 5,396 pounds of recyclables.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7917.