Waterway Cleanups

Congrats to this crew for achieving their 500th consecutive cleanup on Sunday, 22 June 2008!


That's way more than a month of Sundays!

Great Haul at Lake Virginia, Dinky Dock! One ball, kid's play plane, captain's hat, and a watch. One bag of recyclables, 3 big bags of garbage, including a lot of styrofoam and monfilament!

Waterway Cleanups

Congrats to this crew for achieving their 450th consecutive cleanup on Sunday, January 14th, 2007!

Great Haul! One suitcase (full of ID's, paperwork and credit cards,) 1 chair, 1 wallet (full of ID and credit cards,) 1 cast net. One bag of recyclables, 14 big bags of garbage, including a lot of styrofoam and monfilament! Please remember not to feed wildlife or attempt to attract them to populated areas for their own protection.

What are Waterway cleanups? A group of volunteers, nature-lovers, wildlife protectors, water shamans, and others based in Orlando, FL. Dedicated to protecting Florida waterways from the flotsam and jetsam of humanity. We meet once a week, on most Sunday afternoons, to clean a lake, river, or coastline or a park.
How can I join? It is not necessary to be an active member of ECO-Action in order to join us for a waterway cleanup. However, we would love your support.

Click here to become a member of ECO-Action.

Do I need reservations?

Reservations by Friday, at the latest, are a must to reserve for canoe cleanups and to be notified if any changes occur.

Call the Hotline to leave a message.

Call the Hotline for finalized locations, times, reservations, carpools and directions.

Waterway Cleanup Trips are printed in our ECO-Action Gram newsletter. Some trips are beachside or park cleanups.

Click here to link to online Waterway Cleanup Schedule.

Click here to email your request to register for a spot in advance.

WARNING: WE can NOT return calls to long distance cell phone numbers provided in an email. Please email with a local phone number, or try to reach us by phone when you can.
What does "Reserved" mean?

Occasionally, reservations from a group of people for a particular Waterway Cleanup Trip date is so numerous that it takes up all the spots in our ECO-Action canoe fleet. When this happens, people not reserved will have to be turned away. If you do NOT have confirmation of your reservation, you probably are NOT reserved.

  • (1) Bring your own canoe. You will never be turned away.
  • (2) Call us at the last minute to see if any reservations have been cancelled. You can then join in the effort for that date. ECO-Action Hotline
  • (3) Donate more canoes to ECO-Action!
  • (4) Some trips are beachside.

What should I expect?

The unexpected!! Some days are a leisurely float down river, others are backbreaking tire collection digs, offshore or beachside. Most locations do not have restrooms. Some trips have two volunteers, others fifteen. Trips begin at 3 or 4 PM (depending on Day Light Savings Time) and usually last 3-4 hours.

Join us on Sunday afternoon as we meet at a local river, stream, lake or canal to remove treacherous debris that is dangerous to wildlife!

ECO-Action has performed 500 canoe clean-ups, and taken 5,000 people onto the water to get to the trash before the animals do. No two clean-ups have been alike!

We provide the equipment and gear, and you provide the energy and enthusiasm! Call the ECO-phone at 407-695-5050 to reserve a one-man canoe, or bring your own vessel! See our schedule for information about the clean-ups, what to expect and what to bring, pictures of previous trips, and a calendar that shows our planned weekly clean-ups for the next few months.

We provide two cushions and a life vest to each volunteer, as well as paddles and bags and boat hook and grippers. Any personal items the volunteer brings with him are going to get wet, dirty, and stinky (probably), or lost. We recommend a dry change of clothes just in case.

If you wear glasses, please get one of those attachments that grips them to your head.

The canoes are small, like kayaks, and only carry one person +/- 240 lbs.

They are a little tippier than the bigger ones, but once one gets used to it (about five minutes) one may never get in a two-person canoe again!

Our motivation is to remove treacherous debris that endangers wildlife, and have freed entangled animals and been able to rehabilitate many others.

Unfortunately, we often come upon animals that are already dead from becoming entangled in fishing line or choked on plastic or buoyant from styrofoam. It is eye-opening to most first-timers to see that the City's trash is washed by the rains from the streets and sidewalks into the lakes and rivers.

One must assume that there are alligators in every water body in Florida. We often see them, as well as a variety of wildlife in their native habitat.

There is an indemnity agreement every volunteer must sign. It states that you know you are taking a risk and will not hold us responsible or sue us if you get struck by lightning or eaten by an alligator or capsize and drown or get exposed to poisonous materials and any and all other matter of hazards.

In addition to finding the membership form on our site, you should also find a schedule for where we intend to go for clean-ups for the next few months.

You need to call the hotline to make a reservation and have us save a one-person canoe for you, and get directions to the meeting place.

One point to emphasize - we are not out on a paddling competition! The slower we go and the less shoreline we cover, the better job we are doing, because this means we're getting the little stuff which is the most dangerous to wildlife. It's like weeding - you can spend considerable time in one area getting it totally weed-free, and then you look at the same area from a different angle and see all the weeds you missed. This is why we proceed in a line, usually leap-frogging around each other, and proceed slowly. You can't see monofilament speeding by at 5 knots - and you certainly can't see it from offshore. We keep ourselves tight to shore with the bugs.

I think leap-frogging is the best way to describe how we proceed along the shoreline. We go off in a line; the person in front keeps the speeders from racing ahead. Someone gets absorbed in one area which has tangled fishing line or a pocket of trash, and remains there while the people in back of them will pass around him to access the shoreline in front of that person - or will stop and help. The person at the end is supposed to see that if someone has encountered a mess and is spending a lot of time in it, they can receive assistance from the others or the follow-up person will stay and work on it with them.


  • Pitch for Membership/Donations/Sponsors - we need $ to continue
  • Get all participants to sign the indemnity agreement
  • Group Stay Together - in sight of leader
  • Resist temptation to get out of canoe to retrieve trash out of reach
  • Look but don't bother wildlife
  • No drinking or drugging
  • Sort garbage from recycling
  • Segregate fishing line when you pick it up by putting it in a container provided or something you've retrieved - it is too dangerous even for the garbage!
  • When you hear the whistle - heads up! Return to the Captain as fast as possible.
  • End of day - Assess the haul - garbage, recycling, tires
  • Take end-of-day group photo with haul
  • Go home happy and scurvy
  • Join us! It's fun, and it helps the critters.

I know of a waterway or body of water that needs a cleanup. Can I contact ECO-Action to have it put on the list?

Yes! We are always looking for new places to launch, especially in the rivers. As long as there is a public spot where we can launch our canoes and park vehicles, we'll go! Many lakes surrounded by private property require that we are invited by someone who lives on the lake.

What should I bring?

Drinking water, sun protection (sunscreen, hat, long-sleeved shirt), snacks, camera (in waterproof container), change of clothing, and a kind donation of $5.00 for the canoe trip. Also, grippy shoes are recommended. Do not eat a large meal just before canoeing to prevent nausea. Be prepared to accept "I'm going to get wet and grimy, and love it".

I know of a waterway or body of water that needs a cleanup. Can I contact ECO-Action to have it put on the list?

Yes, as long as there is a public spot where we can launch our canoes and park vehicles. Many lakes are fronted by private property. We need permission to launch into all waterways.

I am interested in becoming a Canoe Cleanup Guide. How can I get involved in leadership opportunities?

So glad you asked! Especially when we are taking out inexperienced canoeists, it is important to supervise and keep an eye on eleven canoes. Two pair of eyes, one in front and one in back, help to ensure that no one gets lost or stuck. There are also occasions when Beth is unable to go, and we need someone to substitute so the show may go on! Just let your interest be known, and you'll be given all the on-the-job training you can use as well as individual instruction from Captain Beth. All are welcome to canoe regardless whether you desire a leadership role in the group.

Why does a Waterway Cleanup program include cleaning parks?

Because most all litter makes its way to the waterways whether via storm drains, accidental animal or bird conveyance, or wind currents.

Program Organizers

Beth Hollenbeck - Executive Director

Frank Gould - EVP, Canoe Captain 407-291-2716

Captain Stephen's Logs

Stephen Nordlinger gives us a glimpse of some of the ECO-Canoe adventures! Stephen Nordlinger, creator of ECO-Action's canoe clean-up project, has written wonderful little books with anecdotes about his adventures, hand-drawn pictures, and interesting facts - 25 clean-ups per book. They are available for a $10 donation each, and there are 8 books - that's 200 trips! They are totally charming and informative.

Alexander Springs

I am overjoyed that several of the volunteers, especially Beth, see what I am seeing. Now I know for sure that there are sting rays throughout the fresh waters of Florida and I have several witnesses. Now I need to get a photo.


Today has been a leisurely ride down the Little Econ River. There was not too much litter above the Jay Blanchard Park dam. Next time, we come here, we'll concentrate more on the down river end of the park.

Inter coastal Waterway

Winter winds have really built up a healthy chop out on the Indian River. It takes our team a lot of time and effort just to arrive at the cleanup area. On our return trip, we will have to make changes in canoe arrangements just to get everyone back safe.

Lake Apopka

We have found yet another illegal tire dumping site. The volunteers have gone above and beyond the call of duty dragging truck tires through the thick green mud. We use a pulley to lift the tires onto the canoes.

Seven-Mile Bridge

The rope tied to my waist, leading up to my canoe, tugs with the current. I'm six feet under water, tying a second rope to a shopping cart. As my oxygen gives out, I'm thinking I'll use the current to pull the cart out of the sand; and I wonder how anyone could pollute the crystal clear water of the Florida Keys.

St. Johns' River

The recent tornadoes have littered the area with building materials in the area of Highway 46. We have come to give a helping hand to the residents of this houseboat community. Scott gets a nail in his foot as he and I wrestle a tin wall out of the river. A passersby on a motorboat lends a hand to pull the wall free of the vegetation


By Stephen Nordlinger

These are some solutions for some of the many problems I see out on the waterways of the state of Florida:

Air boats

These things should just be outlawed. I can't see any good use for them which doesn't include destroying the very nature people are out to see. If you don't think they harm the environment, imagine being struck by a ton of boat hull at a high speed. Their very design is to run over grassy, shallow wet areas! The noise scares the birds, alligators, otters and other creatures into a panic. Take a look at the St. Johns' River and the Everglades and you'll see dead trails where air boats make their runs. Also see Jet Skis.

Barb less Hooks

That little razor-sharp backwards spike on fishhooks and lures gets caught up on limbs, bodies and in throats of all sorts of animals and people. If you have wire cutters, you can cut the shaft and slip out both ends. But the animals have to tear it out. A hook that is either barb less or has had the barb bent against the main shaft with a pair of pliers can be pulled out of an animal with much less flesh tearing.

Beer Bottles and Cans

When people drink alcohol while out fishing, or hanging out in a nature park, they don't want to get caught. Therefore, they toss all of their bottles and cans into the water before a Ranger catches them. The amount of unopened beer bottles I have picked out of the lakes and rivers proves this. Putting recycling bins near boat ramps would prevent some of this and provide an income to the park / area when aluminum cans are collected. This also greatly reduces the overall mass of bottles and cans that would otherwise take up space in trash cans.

Boat Dock Guards

Many docks are lined with old car tires. Tires break down and contribute to poisons in the waters. In some areas, I have seen docks lined with old Christmas Trees or logs, a more environmentally friendly option. Any of the ECO-Canoe Trip volunteers who have gone out on tire collection trips and grabbed onto a half-buried tire only to have it tear apart in their hands will attest to the fact that tires do break down in water.

Boat Propellers

A guard that covers a propeller would prevent many manatees, turtles and dolphins from gaining permanent lashings. To the boaters who state that a guard would reduce the speed of their crafts, you're right. But what are you doing out in the waters if you don't love them and want to protect them? I saw the biggest Florida snapping turtle I've ever seen crawl out of Lake Apopka with a row of slashes down its neck and shell.

Exotic Plants

Water Hyacinths, Water Lettuce, and Hydrilla are often found in the smaller waterways, where there are no manatees to control their growth. Rather than spraying all kinds of poison to control these plants (similar to the massive bird and fish kill of Lake Apopka, 1999), collect these plants and give them to farmers to fertilize crops.

Fishing Line

So many birds, dolphins, manatees and other animals (as well as myself), from time to time, get caught up in almost invisible Monofilament (fishing line). A biodegradable line would allow anglers to lose a lure or two among the trees and submerged logs without endangering all the animals in the area.


There is nothing I can really say about deliberate dumping of balls of fishing line, tires and other small items, like bait containers. Just don't do it. Karma, Karma Karma...

Jet Skis

The engine design of these water pleasure craft vehicles takes gasoline and oil, mixing them together for combustion. While running, these vehicle put gas and oil into the water, creating more pollution, encouraging algae blooms. Also see Air boats.

Click here for Canoe Dates.

ECO-Canoeist Fan Club

I would like to inform Stephen Nordlinger that he is one of my heroes. Anybody who cares about the planet and the ecosystem as much as he does is someone who should be honored and appreciated, especially since there are so few people in this world who care about our planet.

I would like to say to him "thank you...for caring, for appreciating this planet in a way that so few people do." He should be proud of himself and his beliefs. I am glad that I have found somebody who cares about our planet as much as he does, and it makes me proud to be an American. So again, I would like to say..."thank you" to him and all others who want to take care of our planet and preserve it for the future generations as much as I do. He shows us that we should take care of our planet; we should appreciate it. God bless him and everybody else who feels the way he does. Keep up the good work, Stephen. America and our planet loves people like you.


pearcedgirl@yahoo.com November 21, 2002