Diver Clark Atchison sorts through some of the items he brought up near Saywell Park at last year’s Cowichan River Cleanup

Volunteers wanted for Cowichan River Cleanup next weekend

Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society seeing less garbage each year, though help is still needed.

The Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society is once again asking residents to lend a hand in their annual Cowichan River Cleanup, which sees the shoreline and floor of the river cleared of garbage and debris each year.

This year, the Stewardship Society will be organizing the initiative on the upper part of the river, from the weir to Sandy Pool, while the Watershed Board will be leading the cleanup for the lower part of the river the following day.

“It’s quite an extensive undertaking,” Stewardship Society member Sandy Cummings said.

Scheduled for August 15, volunteers are being asked to meet up at Lake Cowichan Town Hall, 39 South Shore Road, at 8:30 a.m., when a free breakfast will be served prior to the cleanup.

2015 marks the eighth year that the Cowichan River Cleanup will be taking place. The Stewardship Society is looking for volunteers to collect garbage while walking along the shoreline, diving into the river or while floating on the river in a small aluminum or inflatable boat. The Stewardship Society is also asking volunteers to bring gloves and appropriate footwear to the River Cleanup, as well as goggles and other snorkeling equipment if they will be diving. Children under 14 are asked to be accompanied by an adult.

Volunteers will rendezvous at the town hall at 2 p.m. for a complimentary barbecue. The Stewardship society will also be giving away “door prizes,” supplied by sponsors of the event, to volunteers, such as certificates for free meals and family tubing passes.

Parker Jefferson of One Cowichan said that he feels it’s important for people to participate in this event because it helps them to understand just how big the garbage problem is in the river.

“Over all the years we’ve done this, we have seen improvement – there is less stuff,” he said. “But it’s important to get the community involved so they understand how important it is to clean up after themselves.”

Since the River Cleanup began in 2008, the amount of garbage reclaimed from the river has shrunk, though divers have been coming up with older items, such as pieces from the railway and a 50-pound anchor, both found in the river last year.

2013 saw 1100 kg of trash cleaned from the river and shoreline, and this year is expected to see even less.

“Last year saw a fair amount of garbage pulled out of the river,” Cummings said. “Most of the heavy junk has been pulled out, but people are still throwing bottles and junk into the river.”

Bottles, cans and other recyclables collected from the river will also be returned to the Depot for the deposit refund, which will go towards funding future River Cleanups and other Stewardship Society initiatives. Residents who are unable to help with the Cowichan River Cleanup are asked to bring their returnables to the town office before 2 p.m.