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Alberni Valley Nature Club hauls 140 Kg of trash out of ecologically sensitive area

Devil’s Den Bluffs under threat from multi-modal overuse, says outdoorsman
Members of the AV Nature Club spent a couple of hours on a rainy Thursday in April 2023 cleaning up more than 140 kilograms of trash from the bush at Devil’s Den Lake. (MIKE YOUDS PHOTO)

Seven members of the Alberni Valley Nature Club spent a soggy Thursday morning before Easter hauling garbage out of a place where it doesn’t belong.

Theresa Szymanis brought the blight of Devil’s Den Lake to the attention of the Alberni Valley Nature Club following a hike in February. A large illegal dump site near the lake contained trash that had evidently been there for quite a while. More serious, says club member Sandy McRuer, is the erosion to the bluffs above the lake due to multi-modal use of a trail that someone has built into the area.

Seven club members brought a pickup truck as close as they could, then walked into the area with wheelbarrows, plastic garbage bags and hand tools. They hauled out 140 kilograms of trash—two pickup loads. “We found all sorts of trash, from baby nappies to electronics and pill bottles. Lots of tin cans. We found money: I found 180 cents in money,” McRuer said. They also found some capped needles.

The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District did not charge the group tipping fees when they hauled the trash to the landfill because they filled out appropriate waivers beforehand and they were doing a service to the community, he added.

There is another small pile of construction material and smaller plastic bits that volunteers weren’t able to collect last week. They will return at a later date to remove it, he said.

McRuer said the environmental threat to the bluffs goes beyond illegal dumping. Devils’ Den Lake, located four kilometres west of the city, is cut in half by the boundary between land owned by Mosaic and Crown land. Because it is inside a riparian zone it has not been logged.

The area is popular with outdoor enthusiasts, and someone has even built a trail around the lake, lining it with logs. While they’ve done a good job, McRuer said it has enhanced access to the area, and some are abusing it. The trail has given access to the bluffs “and they are getting trampled by humans too.”

The Devil’s Den Lake issue caught the attention of provincial officials: McRuer met a fisheries biologist at the bluffs the same day as the cleanup. He had been invited at the behest of others who are also concerned, McRuer said.

Provincial officials seem “supportive” in putting up barriers that will deter motorized vehicles from accessing the area, and McRuer is hopeful signage will be erected asking users to give vegetation on the bluffs a chance to recover. McRuer also plans on approaching the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District for its support in conservation efforts on the bluffs.

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Theresa Szymanis shows a garbage pile near Devli’s Den Lake to another member of the AV Nature Club. Volunteers spent a couple of hours on Thursday, April 6, 2023 cleaning up most of the pile and hauling it to the Alberni Valley Landfill. (MIKE YOUDS PHOTO)

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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