EAST MANATEE — Plastic bags and bottles, Styrofoam and aluminum cans.
None of these belong among the mangrove roots and marsh grasses of the Braden River.
That’s why members of the Old Braden River Historical Society will host their semi-annual river clean-up beginning at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the King Ranch, 4630 Caruso Road.
“Most canoeists and kayakers think that the Braden River is clean, however we have gathered many truck loads of trash during prior clean-up events,” said Denise Kleiner, vice president of the Historical Society.
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Kleiner, like many of the 40 or so members of the 18-month-old Society, are passionate about the river and are working to educate residents about it.
“Many people don’t know what a gem it is,” Kleiner said of the river, which has 11 miles that can be navigated and another nine or so that run too shallow.
It’s one of the few rivers in the world that runs north, Kleiner said.
The Society has always struggled to find volunteers for these river clean-ups, which leaves Kleiner confused.
“How bad is it to get in a canoe you are given for free, gaze at estuaries and eagles and every so often pick something up?” Kleiner asked.
The last Society clean-up drew 45 people, helped by a volunteer team from Tropicana Inc., Kleiner said.
“All it takes is once in a while to help us, and we can protect the river,” Kleiner added.
The group will target the banks of the river and collect debris from the roots and grasses using specially made “grabbers” designed to keep participants safe, Kleiner said.
A prize will be awarded for the most unusual piece of trash found during the event.
In the past, the group has found boat seats, a fur-lined glove and even a pop-top can from the 1970s.
“I don’t think people intentionally throw things in the river, but it’s sometimes part of the boating experience,” Kleiner said.
The King family, which has lived on the Braden River for three generations, became members of the Old Braden River Historical Society in December and offered their property as the launch site for the January clean-up, Kleiner said.
Joe King told the group that he remembers river clean-ups he participated in as a child with a local 4-H Club.
Bald eagles frequent the Braden River more often now that a county park has replaced a garbage dump that was once located across the river from his home, King said.
“The increasing eagle population indicates the improving health of the river,” King added.
For the upcoming clean-up, participants will be asked to sign in at 8:30 a.m., at which time they will be provided with coffee, donuts, bottled water and a kayak or canoe to use. There are a limited number of vessels available, so participants should bring their own kayaks or canoes as well, Kleiner added.
Children younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult. The public is encouraged to attend, Kleiner said.
“What we do today will make a difference for generations to come,” Kleiner added.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7917.