Want to help clean Shingle Creek?  Join Swamp N’ Sweep

Volunteers pose in front of a mound of trash and debris they helped remove from Shingle Creek during the May Swamp N’ Sweep event.

Swamp Girl Adventures is teaming up with Osceola County Commissioner Peggy Choudhry to clean up Shingle Creek Thanksgiving weekend.

And they hope you and your family can help.

The Swamp N’ Sweep will cover the area adjacent to the Osceola Welcome Center and History Museum on U.S. Highway 192.

“Thursday is Thanksgiving, Friday is Black Friday, so we thought Saturday could be a day people do something good for the environment,” said Kim Titterington, founder and director of Swamp Girl Adventures, a nonprofit dedicated to conservation education and wildlife rescue.

The group has cleaned up natural habitats throughout Osceola since it was established in 2009.

It partnered with Choudhry this year to distribute educational materials to participants.

“It’s a teaching opportunity as well as a chance to get some work done,” Choudhry said.

Much of the messaging is focused on switching from one-time-use plastics, like plastic bottles of water, for re-usable items.

“The first step in education is participation. It brings more awareness to the problem,” Choudhry said.

“We hope to get a lot kids out to participate. The kids learn that for us to have a better environment, they can’t litter. They’re also teaching their parents,” she said. “It seems simple, but it’s a big deal.”

Swamp Girls Adventures finds and removes all sorts of trash, from plastic bottles to couches and shopping carts. They also remove exotic plants, such as Caesar weed and Brazilian pepper trees, which can choke out native wildlife and plant species.

Among the most harmful items found in Shingle Creek are fishing line and lures, Titterington said.  

“It’s very problematic for turtles and other wildlife. Raccoons, possums, birds, you name it, they can get tangled in it,” she said.

Sometimes fishermen can’t help getting their line caught in a tree, other times, it’s just carelessness, she said. Plastic bags are another culprit.

The Nov. 30 clean-up will be the third one at Shingle Creek this year.

“Our biggest reason for focusing on Shingle Creek is that it’s the headway to the Everglades,” she said. “What we do here (in Central Florida) impacts everything down the line.”

Titterington got her start in wildlife education at an early age. When she was in third grade, she saw two boys killing a snake and felt uneasy.

“I just knew it was cruel and unnecessary. I started educating myself on snakes and it really inspired me,” she said. “People don’t respect things they don’t understand. You don’t have to love snakes, but if you respect their place in the environment, then I’ve done my job.”