Trash equals cash.
That's what local volunteers are saying after last Sunday's clean-up of the Pimlico Race Course infield raised more than $8,000 for the protection of rain forest in Costa Rica.
About 200 volunteers from the Baltimore Zoo, the National Aquarium and Washington's National Zoo picked through and picked up a mind-boggling spread of debris, including clothes, uneaten food (mostly fried chicken), beverage cans, aluminum lawn chairs and money.
The proceeds from the sale of the recyclable cans and chairs, along with corporate and private contributions, amounted to $8,294.95. The volunteers' goal was $8,000.
The funds are to be given to the Nature Conservancy. The Virginia-based conservation group will use the money to buy 104 acres of Costa Rican rain forest and then place them under the control of the Central American country's national parks system.
More than 87,000 people attended the 116th Preakness last Saturday, with some 55,000 of them gathered for the yearly Bacchanalia known as the Preakness infield party.
The final statistics from the clean-up, an annual event begun in 1990, were announced yesterday by National Aquarium spokesman Amy Woodworth.
A total of 12,499 pounds of aluminum -- 11,760 pounds of cans, 739 pounds of lawn chairs -- was collected. The number of cans collected was about 300,000, nearly double last year's total of 160,000, said Woodworth.
Reynolds Aluminum Recycling Co. will buy the aluminum for $3,564.95.
Harry M. Stevens Maintenance Services Inc., the regular Pimlico maintenance contractor, paid the volunteer group $2,800 for removing the trash. A local Budweiser distributor contributed $1,765. Another $165 came from private donors affiliated with the Baltimore Zoo and the Aquarium, and from volunteers who found money during the clean-up.
Last year's clean-up raised about $5,000, which was used to purchase 42 acres of Costa Rican rain forest. This year's amount will buy more acres because the land being purchased is less expensive, Woodworth explained.
"We were able to raise more this year because we had twice as many volunteers this time," she added. "Last year, we ran out of time and had to leave aluminum on the ground that we couldn't get to. This year, we're certain we got all the aluminum that was out there."
Woodworth said the clean-up will continue to be a regular event. Next year's goal again will be $8,000.