Volunteers remove 25 tonnes of trash from forests near Ladysmith

An excavator shakes debris from the frame of an RV that was left in the first up Spruston Road. (Cole Schisler photo)An excavator shakes debris from the frame of an RV that was left in the first up Spruston Road. (Cole Schisler photo)
An excavator picks up piles of garbage left at a site on Spruston Road. (Cole Schisler)An excavator picks up piles of garbage left at a site on Spruston Road. (Cole Schisler)
A burnt-out vehicle frame sits in the forest near Spruston Road. (Cole Schisler photo)A burnt-out vehicle frame sits in the forest near Spruston Road. (Cole Schisler photo)
An old barbecue and other assorted garbage were just some of what was left in the forest. (Cole Schisler photo)An old barbecue and other assorted garbage were just some of what was left in the forest. (Cole Schisler photo)

Volunteers gathered on Saturday, April 24, to clean up 25 tonnes of garbage from forests in the Ladysmith area.

President of the Ladysmith Sportsmen Club, Dave Judson, organizes annual cleanups of Ladysmith’s forest lands. Volunteers tackled popular area illegal dumping sites on Spruston Road, Bannon Creek Forest Service Road, and near the Bush Creek Hatchery.

RELATED: Over 75kg of trash found up Bannon Creek Forest Reserve with more left to clean up

“In seven cleanups we’ve removed over 63 tonnes in total. And on average, 10 tonnes finds its way back into the forest every year,” Judson said.

Judson says that illegal dumping could occur for several reasons, but he suspects that it has a lot to do with hours of operation at waste facilities, cost of disposal and down-right laziness.

“I have picked up five tonnes up past Peerless Road dump,” he said. “What happens is people go there with a full truckload and the dump is closed. They need their truck empty for the next — even though that’s not an excuse — they drive up the logging road and kick it out at the next turn.”

RELATED: Volunteers clean 6100 pounds of garbage from Bannon Creek Forest Reserve

Illegal dumping has led to many backroads being gated off, which limits access to the backcountry for responsible users. And while loss of access to the backcountry is top of mind for Judson and other outdoor recreators, their primary concern is the danger that dumping sites pose to the environment.

“The biggest concern is irreversible habitat loss and environmental damage… We’ve come upon burnt cars still smouldering. The fire risk is high right now. There’s fuel, oils, batteries, rubber, and other contaminants like that.”

During the cleanup, volunteers collected several tires and burnout vehicle frames. An abandoned RV was found at once site, which had to be demolished by an excavator and loaded into a bin truck to be removed.

The event was sponsored by the Cowichan Valley Regional District, Backcountry Horsemen of BC, Jon Rice Excavating, Little Valley Collision, Coastal Trucking, Stalker Excavating, Tim Hortons, Extend Rentals, Granby Bobcat Excavating, Country Grocer, Craig Adams, and Mosaic Forest Management.

Many of the illegal dumping sites were on Mosaic-owned timberlands. Mosaic has been involved in cleanup efforts from Campbell River down to Sooke. But this year, the company is redoubling their efforts to support volunteers.

“We’re very thankful and grateful for the regular contingent of volunteers that help us on an ongoing basis,” said Domenico Iannidinardo, Vice President of Forest & Logistics and Chief Forester for Mosaic. “For Earth Week, we’ve made a point of making a blitz, and coordinating groups up and down the Island to make sure we provide support with trucking, food and safety equipment.”

RELATED: Island communities asked to join forces in seeking help fighting illegal dumping

Iannidinardo said that the Earth Week initiative is a pilot project and depending on the results, Mosaic may help volunteer groups conduct cleanups at other times of the year. Other groups like the Comox Valley Regional District, Stop Comox Strathcona Illegal Dumping, and the Rotary Club of Comox also held cleanup events during Earth Week.

In 2020, Mosaic recovered a substantial quantity of illegally dumped material, everything from cars to couches, at the cost of more than $85,000 to clean up.

As for the cleanup effort on Saturday, Judson said that the cost of the cleanup was a minimum of $15,000, but the cost to dispose of the garbage would have been $3,000 to $4,000.

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