Ten years after moving into a small house in the Grant Park neighborhood, Jerry Daniels has seen much improvement.
Except for raucous neighbors at the end of his street, it's quiet. Most people keep their yards neat. Still, he says, things could be better.
That's why Jerry is thrilled Hillsborough County's Rapid Response Team has targeted Grant Park for a multifaceted clean-up, a program called Fight the Blight. Team members recently handed out fliers encouraging residents to put their junk beside the road for free pickup during the weeklong effort.
"I was like, 'Yee-hoo,'" he says. "I had been taking stuff to the dump. It piles up."
The project began with removal of a pile of discarded tires and trash on a vacant lot just outside the neighborhood. The County's recently-acquired "Lightning Loader" truck, equipped with a claw-like bucket, made short work of the job.
The truck can haul 40 cubic yards of debris, reducing trips to the Southeast Hillsborough County Landfill and enabling Rapid Response to tidy up an area faster.
The truck next will pick up junk that Jerry piled in front of his house - mattresses, a television, broken boards, tires, and a dresser. A neighbor across the street pulled an old chair and headboard to the side of the street.
Grant Park is just east of Tampa in unincorporated Hillsborough County. It is the first area targeted this year as part of the Fight the Blight program.
Fight the Blight's goal is for Hillsborough County officials to work with residents and business owners to improve select neighborhoods by removing trash and junk, reducing crime and graffiti, spurring economic growth, and eliminating places where mosquitoes can breed, among other measures. The program began in 2011, and last year four neighborhoods were addressed: Town 'N Country, Greenridge Estates, Thonotosassa, and Orient Park. A total of more than 66 tons of debris was hauled away from those communities.
The County has targeted Grant Park before, Jerry says, and the fliers passed out by the Rapid Response Team drew more participation this time. "This is great," he said. "Trust me, there's a lot of happy campers."