SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Hurricane Ian devastated many communities across the state, including North Port. In the Harbor Cove community along the Myakka River, residents are still picking up the pieces from the storm.

Residents say around 200 homes were destroyed, many others suffered significant damage. Debris within the community has been cleaned up for the most part, but some of the canals surrounding the neighborhood and leading to the river remain a mess.

“Anything you can imagine that blew out of people’s homes was laying out there in the water, and there is still a lot of it to be cleaned up,” said resident David Ott.

The debris is scattered throughout the area, tangled and twisted into mangroves, and submerged in the water. Residents say they still see trash floating by during high tides, even five months after the storm.

The primary debris we spotted from shore was Styrofoam and sheet metal. Residents in North Port say they have tried to cleanup as much of the river as they can, but some of the debris is too large or out of reach with the tools they have available to them.

WFLA photo

“The Myakka River, as most people know, has been a beautiful pristine area full of plants, animals, and marine life. Now, it is incredibly littered with large portions of aluminum, ridiculous amounts of Styrofoam, and miscellaneous debris that is everywhere and throughout the mangroves,” said Executive Director of Sarasota Bay Watch Ronda Ryan. “It is beyond messy. There is a danger to people and wildlife with the type of debris that is in there, but that has been an area that has been protected and pristine for many years, and we just want to try to get that out of there.”

Sarasota Bay Watch, Suncoast Waterkeeper, Suncoast Aqua Ventures, North Port Friends of Wildlife, and the Harbor Cove community are partnering up for a cleanup this weekend.

A total of 14 kayaks will be provided, but volunteers with kayaks or shallow water boats are encouraged to bring them along. Non-boaters will be needed as well to retrieve trash or clean areas from the shore. Donations are also being accepted to help with supplies for the event.

Sarasota Bay Watch says volunteers are coming from all across the Tampa Bay area.

“Anybody that enjoys the wildlife, uses the waterways, kayaks, canoes, or goes fishing ought to pitch in because it is going to take many many people and many months to fully recover and cleanup the waterways,” said Harbor Cove resident Alan Westerberg.

The event runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb 25. Volunteers will meet at the Harbor Cove Community at 499 Imperial Drive, North Port.

Those interested in participating are asked to sign up here.