Sandy Cumming

River Cleanup volunteer numbers down, but so is garbage

Kaatza Museum given train wheels found during the Cowichan River Cleanup.

Continuing the trend that’s been present over the last few years, this year’s Cowichan River Cleanup saw less garbage being retrieved from the river than its predecessor, but as organizer Sandy Cumming explained – that’s a good thing.

“We didn’t pull up as much garbage as last year, but that just means there’s less garbage left, less old stuff,” he said. “But even if all we find is one can, we’ll still do it. It’s good for the community, it brings people together.”

Organized by the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society, the Cowichan River Cleanup recently took place for its seventh year in a row. The turnout of volunteers was also lower than last year’s, with 93 people spending their morning and afternoon cleaning the river, though last year’s Cowichan River Cleanup saw 106 registered volunteers take part. Though turnout took a dip, Cumming said that he wasn’t even expecting 93 volunteers this year.

“I think the smoke and the negative press surrounding that had an effect on the River Cleanup,” he said. “There were pictures on TV the day before that were showing Lake Cowichan almost sucked in by the smoke, so I’m surprised anybody showed up. It’s a testament to the people who live here.”

Along with the locals, the Sundown Diving Club from Nanaimo was also in town, as usual, scouring the bottom of the river for trash. A few tourists were also on hand to help with the cleanup, including a family from southern France, a man from Brazil and a woman from Germany, who spent the day diving.

The most common items retrieved from the Cowichan River were beer and pop cans, though this year also saw an unusual amount of bottles collected, particularly near the Riverside Pub.

“Every year we find quite a bit there,” Cumming said. “At this point we’ve collected enough to keep us going for years.”

As is expected by now, volunteers also brought up a few odd pieces of garbage from the Cowichan River, including a set of wheels that Cumming suspects came from the front of a train.

“It makes me wonder where the rest of the train went,” he joked.

The wheels have been donated to the Kaatza Station Museum. Money received from can and bottle refunds will go to the Stewardship Society to be used for their shoreline and boater education programs.

A cleanup of the lower half of the river is being organized by the Cowichan Watershed Board and will take place later this month.