Out with the trash
Not all is sunshine and lollipops with the warmer weather having arrived.
Unfortunately, this is when locals use water access to cool off or picnics and wrapping up spring cleaning around houses and yards.
And they all need a reminder: dumping or leaving behind garbage isn’t cool.
“It doesn’t matter where you go on the river, if there’s a good swimming hole, there’s going to be lots of people there,” said Cowichan Tribes Chief Chip Seymour. “If you’ve got some common sense, and you bring food down there, you take it with you when you leave.
“Growing up and when my brothers and sisters and their families would all go down to the river and barbecue, when we would leave, everything we used was put into a black garbage bag and came with us,” said Seymour.
Unfortunately not everyone uses the same principles.
Garbage along the Cowichan River and other swimming holes is certainly a concern for officials in all local jurisdictions. But it isn’t a new or growing issue.
“It’s just a question of communicating that there’s a problem and we should work together,” said Cowichan River stewardship group One Cowichan’s Parker Jefferson.
A photo showing four mattresses dumped near the gravel pullout/parking spot off Allenby Road and the White Bridge posted on the News Leader Pictorial’s Facebook page last month was just one example of what is frustrating residents and officials alike.
“We can’t account for people who do bad things randomly,” Duncan Mayor Phil Kent said following the mattress dumping, noting in particular people discarding household items in the bushes, rather than at their closest recycling/garbage facility. “If it’s reported to us, we try to respond the best we can.”
“It’s not just an issue just there,” Kent continued. “There are a lot of people who think it’s appropriate and who think they can dump wherever they want.
“It’s been an ongoing issue for many, many years and for lots of people in the Shawnigan Lake area and Cowichan Lake area as well.”
Thankfully, many Cowichanians are also aware and have and are currently organizing clean-up events.
Jefferson noted the group’s annual river clean up in August has been a huge success and they’ve teamed with Cowichan Tribes to cover their area for the past two years as well.
“For the last two years, we have co-operated with Tribes for the lower part of the river. Tribes and Roger Hart have worked very hard together to make this happen,” he said.
Seymour also noted one of council’s goals is to create a bylaw so it can slap fines on those guilty of dumping.
“It’s not so much just the rivers; It does happen in outlying areas as well,” Seymour said. “I think if a truck can get into an open field, they’re going to dump and that’s where our problems are.
“We do have a bylaw officer who will go through it and try and find out who it belongs to and contact those people to come back and clean it up.”
Residents like Gláucia Regina Desrochers are also working to create clean-up parties at popular spots in the valley, including Mount Prevost.
“With summer fast approaching it would be nice to enjoy the mountain garbage free,” she said on a Facebook page for an event she had planned for May, but has been postponed for various reasons.
One of the main ones is she needs more people to step up and help out.
“Some important things to know are that Darren Hart, (a) teacher at Cowichan Secondary, has already started the work of cleaning up Mt. Prevost with the assistance of his students and Darrell Frank from the North Cowichan Municipality,” she said on the Facebook page.
“They started at the base of Mt. Prevost and went to the very popular ‘First plat’ filling a one tonne truck of garbage.
“My hope is that we will be able to join their team and build a vast network to get our island cleaned up in one efficient day... for that it will take some planning and some major help.”