A group of volunteers spent hours cleaning up a wilderness site near Campbell River after illegal dumping turned the outdoor recreation area into a junk yard.
Piles of garbage at Mary Lake, 25 minutes northwest of Campbell River, included a full shower stall, said Campbell River resident Jenny Doyle, who organized the cleanup effort.
“There was a lot of garbage there,” Doyle said. “One thing about that spot on the lake is that a lot of people use it to shoot guns, so there’s lots of shotgun shell casings and broken skeets, there’s lots of glass.”
Photos posted to social media show piles of trash and a fire pit littered with casings. Garbage included a full shower stall, speakers, a television and what appeared to be a burned-out box spring or couch, Doyle said.
The ground was also littered with nails from pallets used for firewood, and fragments of black and orange clay pigeons used by hunters, she said. Surprisingly, there were very few beer cans, possibly a sign that deposit programs work, she said.
Doyle organized the cleanup as a project that involves giving back to the community for a program called the Excellence Seminars. A group of 11 people, including classmates and friends, spent about four hours cleaning up the site. The group included volunteers from as far as Parksville and Nanaimo. Some passers-by also helped out, she said.
In a Facebook post, she thanked everyone who took part.
“Thank you to everyone who is a part of the solution, to those who are committed to leaving the wild places better than they found them for everyone to enjoy,” she said in the post.
Photos taken by Doyle after the cleanup on Sunday show a relatively pristine site. But there’s still a lot of work to be done, she said.
“You could be on your hands and knees picking up little tiny pieces for an eternity,” said Doyle, who manages the Valhalla Pure Outfitters store in Courtenay.
Doyle said the response to her initiative has been universally positive.
“I’ve had lots of personal messages and people come up to me and say they’d be interested in doing the same thing,” she said.
Doyle hopes that people will treat the restored natural area with more respect.
“Now that it’s cleaner, I think people will be less likely to just throw stuff on the ground because there’s not already a big pile of garbage there,” she said.
She said that people have a responsibility to take care of the beautiful countryside around Campbell River.
“If we all get to use it, I think we should all be stewards of the land as well,” she said.
The group sorted and recycled as much material as possible, and Comox Strathcona Waste Management (CSWM) waived tipping fees, Doyle said. She praised Recreation Sites and Trails BC officer Graham Cameron for helping facilitate the waiver.
The fees were waived under a policy that’s meant to reduce environmental impacts, said Stephanie Valdal, CSWM services coordinator. Groups can also apply for waivers for tipping fees related to community projects and emergency situations, she said.
More information is available on the CSWM website, or by contacting the waste management service directly.
Mary Lake is a recreation site under the jurisdition of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD).
In an email statement, the ministry said it “extends its thanks to the local resident who led a garbage clean-up effort at the site this past weekend.”
Illegal dumping and littering is a problem on Crown land, said Vivian Thomas, communications director for FLNRORD in an email to the Mirror.
People are liable for a ticket of $115 or a fine of up to $2,000 and up to six months in jail for littering under the Environmental Management Act, she said.
She added that depending on the materials involved, “non-compliance could result in a violation ticket of $575, a penalty of up to $1,000,000 and/or imprisonment up to six months.”
Anyone who comes across an illegal dump site or sees dumping taking place can report it to the Natural Resource Violation hotline at 1-877-952-7277.