WIMAUMA - Twenty-one tires and 4,600 pounds of trash were removed from road ditches in Wimauma during the latest Operation Fight the Blight.
And that was just on the first day.
"We provide a central facility for people to bring their discarded items," said Bill Langford, a supervisor for Hillsborough County Code Enforcement, which spearheads the program.
The cleanup campaign began Monday and will continue each day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. until July 17, excluding weekends and the Fourth of July holiday.
At least one area resident doesn't believe two weeks is long enough to make a dent in Wimauma's dumping problem.
Clarence Ramey has lived in Wimauma for more than 30 years and is the owner of M&C Lawn Mower repair, which is located within Fight the Blight's boundaries.
"If you're really going to get rid of all garbage in Wimauma, you need more like a year," Ramey said. "Two weeks is not enough time to let everyone here know about what's going on and to get everything off the road and off people's yards."
The boundaries for Operation Fight the Blight: Wimauma include the 1.3-mile, west-to-east stretch between West Lake Drive and Railroad Street, as well as the half-mile, north-to-south area between State Road 674 and Bassa Street. Several dumpsters will be placed at 16180 W. Lake Drive, Wimauma.
Ramey cites the closing of the Wimauma Community Collection Center off West Lake Road in 2009 as the biggest reason people discard their items on the road.
"You've got people coming into Wimauma doing shrubbery work, and they don't have any place to dump that stuff," said Ramey, who added he once found a bunch of discarded palm trees in his driveway. "People dump on the side of the road because they don't have anywhere close to go."
Langford notes his department has done monthlong Fight the Blight operations, most recently in Palm River earlier this year. Operation Fight the Blight: Wimauma is Code Enforcement's third cleanup campaign this year, following programs in Palm River and the Timberlane neighborhood of Tampa. So far, the campaigns have collected 185 tons of discarded items.
More importantly, the program's mission goes beyond picking up trash on the side of the road, Langford said. Fight the Blight campaigns this year have also inspected more than 1,500 properties.
"It's about removing detriments to a particular community, including vacant or abandoned lots and condemned homes," said Langford, citing one particular house that was covered in gang graffiti.
To that end, Code Enforcement has teamed with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Affordable Housing Services, Animal Services and other agencies for Operation Fight the Blight: Wimauma. But Langford is particularly interested in one crucial partnership.
"Our goal is to bring the community in to be a partner as well," he said.
Residents who live within the boundaries can participate in the program by providing proof of residence. For information, call (813) 274-6600.