Events upping the ante on community involvement and enhancing the local environment

LARGO — Some people go on walks and complain about strewn litter. Some choose to do something about it instead.

Just ask Amy Ferguson or Whitney Haley. The women, who take their strolls on opposite sides of West Bay Drive, have organized cleanup events, one by land this Saturday and another by the Bayhead Complex pond next month.

Their eco-friendly and beautification efforts align with Largo’s forward momentum on creating more foot traffic in and around downtown and the recent adoption of an ordinance banning the distribution of single-use plastics and Styrofoam containers on city property.

“Largo is proud to support beautification efforts across the community, including through its neighborhood matching grant, volunteer opportunities and cleanups through the city’s parks and the Largo Sustainability Series, a monthly workshop held at the Largo Public Library,” explains Laura Thomas, the city’s environmental specialist and sustainability coordinator.

Cleaning up while getting fit

During their first year of operation, the owners of CrossFit The Fitness Box tried to think of a “community give-back project” to get their members moving outside and involved in something bigger than their day-to-day lives.

Their idea: Team Up to Clean Up, an annual community event based in downtown Largo. It debuted October 2017.

Their next cleanup at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, March 9, convenes at 50 Third St. NW.

There’s a fun twist too — it’s a scavenger hunt.

Don’t worry if you’re up to the challenge. “Just bring a bottle of water and a great attitude,” the instructors ask.

The CrossFit TFB team will provide gloves, trash bags and the scavenger hunt list. Prizes will go to the top two teams, and a workout will follow.

Co-owner James Haley came up with the idea after running 400 meters, roughly the same distance as a downtown block.

“We always talked about all the trash we see along our running routes,” said Whitney Haley, co-owner and event organizer.

In fact, their last cleanup yielded more than 100 pounds of trash in less than one hour.

Open since August 2016, CrossFit: The Fitness Box won Best Service-Related Business in the Best of Largo contest in 2017 and 2018. The third member of their team, Justin Walsh, works as a fitness specialist at the Sheriff’s Office with Deputy James Haley.

When not planning community projects and working at the gym, Whitney also works with children and adults with special needs as a dental hygienist.

“We are in the heart of downtown Largo and take joy in our location,” Whitney Haley effuses. “We hope that when the other businesses see that joy, it will inspire them to do the same.”

Not afraid to get wet

For the past three years, Amy Ferguson has organized quarterly cleanups of Bayhead Pond with a friend or two picking up litter ranging from plastic bags, bottles, balls, straws and more.

A resident of the neighborhood by the recreation complex for 14 years, the Michigan native and real estate professional got the idea while taking a neighborhood walk with her French bulldog, Harvey.

“I was walking around the Bayhead Complex and saw a baby alligator belly up surrounded by trash,” she lamented.

This quarter, Ferguson is reaching out to the public to join her. Her next cleanup will be held April 13 at 9 a.m.

Ferguson has gotten the word out with fliers and the Nextdoor app and is hoping to get more people involved and extend efforts to another pond north of the complex.

No need to purchase anything on the way there, she said. The city will provide trash bags, nets and kayaks for assistance with the lake cleanup and is encouraging other communities to unite to clean up their blocks.

“I didn’t know that Amy was doing this on her own every quarter, and I’m happy to volunteer my time to help as this is my neighborhood too,” said city housing specialist Arrow Woodard.

Getting to know Ferguson’s background, it’s no wonder that she cares about her surroundings. She grew up surrounded by nature and has an equestrian background. An agriculture student who competed in rodeo, barrel racing, calf roping and horse judging, she moved from Golden, Colorado, to Clearwater in 1992. She has volunteered for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Suncoast Hospice.

Those interested in joining Ferguson are asked to meet up at the outbuilding near the volleyball courts.

Also, neighborhoods interested in organizing their own neighborhood cleanup efforts should contact Largo’s community outreach coordinator by emailing connect@largo.com.

“The city is happy to support resident-led efforts such as Amy’s as we work to make our future Largo sustainable for generations,” Thomas said.

SOURCE: tbnweekly.com