OKEECHOBEE — Newcomer to Okeechobee Lisa Dee Tatman noticed there was an awful lot of trash on the side of the road heading into Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park and decided she wanted to do something about it. On Christmas Eve, she began posting on several Facebook boards, including Okeechobee Nature Photographers and Viking Prairie/Landowners, introducing herself and asking for volunteers to help her clean up the road.
Tatman and her husband moved to Okeechobee from Colorado about six months ago. Her husband, a retired Navy veteran, just picked Okeechobee out on a map and they moved here. They have a friend who lives in Sebring and wanted to live near her but not right on top of her, so Okeechobee seemed like a good choice. “We really like it, though. We actually bought online, did everything online. It’s a good place to retire,” she said. She and her husband are raising a grandson and are building a house out on the Prairie. In the meantime, they live in an camper on the preserve and work there as volunteers. “Our house is about 8 miles from the park, and I thought it was awful looking at that trash every time I drove into the park,” she said.
Tatman was shocked on Sunday morning when she arrived to begin the cleanup and there were 25-30 people there. Going by the Facebook posts, she thought there would be a handful of people, “but there were so many!” she said. They began working at about 9 a.m. and Tatman finished up around 1:30 p.m., because she and another volunteer from the park were the ones loading all the trash bags and dropping them off at the dump. She brought more than 80 bags with her, and went home with four empty bags, so there were at least 80 bags filled with trash. Some of the volunteers brought their own bags as well, so she has no idea how many there really were, she said. “I was impressed with how many locals came out to help.”
She plans to do a cleanup once a month so the area won’t get as bad again. Her hope is that if people see they are making an effort to clean it up, they will be more careful about keeping it clean and not throw trash out there at all.