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67 electric scooters recovered from Hillsborough River

A team of divers spent their Monday morning on the Tampa Riverwalk fishing out debris.

TAMPA, Fla. — Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful organized a team of volunteers, including divers, to remove electric scooters from the Tampa Riverwalk. 

They weren't entirely sure how many they'd find when the divers went in.

"I'm not sure we knew what would come up," said Al Antolik, the trash-free water manager with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful. "We knew there were some in here, I never thought it'd be [more than] 60."

It took a few trips, but in total, 67 scooters, a bike, a street sign and a canoe were recovered from a 300-yard stretch of the Riverwalk.

Three divers and three line handlers were worn out after a few hours of diving. The electric scooters weigh upward of 20 pounds and many of them were covered in barnacles. 

Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful covers the expenses of recovering the scooters. That includes finding volunteer divers, filling the boat with gas and the hours it takes for these projects to take place. 

The city of Tampa contacts the scooter companies to retrieve their scooters. It's believed there are more scooters in the river that need to be retrieved.

"The City will be working with both Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful and the scooter providers to organize the removal of the remaining devices that they were unable to get to today," Tampa's smart mobility manager, Brandon Campbell, wrote in an email.

According to the city, the scooter companies are contractually obligated to remove their scooters when they end up in places they're not supposed to be — including the bottom of the river. 

"In this case, we had the good fortune to have some proactive volunteers who wanted to help out," Campbell said. "However, absent this we would expect the scooter companies to come up with another solution."

The city of Tampa's mobility department said it has not yet had the issue raised over scooters being dumped in the river. 

"I’m not aware that the companies have initiated any separate recovery efforts for this, specifically," Campbell said.

The department is the primary point of contact for the companies. Campbell said the scooter companies have been cooperative when requests were made over about misplaced devices. If the companies stopped responding to the city or breached their contract, the city could restrict their operation or terminate it entirely.

Campbell said he doesn't anticipate that happening over scooters ending up in the river. 

"The providers share our concern and are working with the volunteer group for the removal," Campbell said.

Scooter company crews that were picking up the scooters Monday said the scooters are taken back by the company to be properly recycled. 

"Once we get them out of the water, they'll come and take care of their products," Antolik said. "That part hasn't been the issue. It's just getting the time and people to get them out of the water."

Tampa contracts with four micro-mobility companies, HOPR, Bird, Lime, and SPIN.

LIME, one of the companies partnering with Tampa in its micro-mobility program, said it had made changes to keep scooters from ending up in the river. 

"To minimize this issue moving forward and to ensure our riders see no adverse impact we've implemented no parking zones on bridges and are already seeing significant improvements," said CJ Shaw, general manager of Lime. "We are proud of our service to Tampa residents and visitors and will continue working with the city and our local partners to improve our operations here."