A dramatically expanded river clean-up is planned for Saturday, August 27.
Whereas previous years’ clean-up stuck fairly close to the Town of Lake Cowichan, this year’s Third Annual Cowichan River Cleanup will stretch 20 kilometres downstream, to Sahtlam.
“The upper river is so much cleaner than during past years, so we’re concentrating more effort downstream,” Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society president Gerald Thom said. The society is again hosting the annual event.
With this year’s clean-up including Skutz Falls, Marie Canyon, and other potentially hazardous areas, there’s to be an increase in safety precautions.
Spotters will follow volunteers from the shore, while carrying radios or cell phones. Those overseeing volunteer divers, floaters, and swimmers, will receive a short training session courtesy of experienced outdoorsman Don Barrie, known for his work with the Warm Rapids Inn.
Although more difficult to clean due to stronger rapids, it is an important area to clean and preserve, Thom said.
In addition to helping vegetation, the area boasts some of the deepest water along the Cowichan River. Its deepest areas stay the coldest, creating a cool sanctuary for fish during the warmest summer days.
“It’s really important habitat for steelhead. It’s also the most beautiful part of the river,” Thom said.
Those interested in volunteering for the day’s cleanup efforts are asked to meet at the Town of Lake Cowichan’s Municipal Hall at 9 a.m. to both register and receive a free continental breakfast. Registration must take place, for insurance reasons.
Due to safety concerns, children under the age of 14 should be accompanied by an adult.
“We really need kayaks, tubers, and people with fins and snorkels,” Thom said.
Volunteers will then branch out into different groups along the Cowichan River.
The day will wrap up at 2 p.m., with a free barbecue and prizes for all volunteers, courtesy of local businesses.
Throughout the day, volunteers will also be awarded a chance to help name the otter that graces a series of friendly reminder signs along the Cowichan River, between the Town of Lake Cowichan and Little Beach.
Installed by the Stewardship Society earlier this summer, tubers’ little otter friend still doesn’t have a name.
“We’ll be taking suggestions throughout the event,” Thom said.
Since the river clean-up started three years ago, Thom said that there has been a drastic change in the Cowichan River.
“It appears that we’ve made a difference,” he said.
It’s not only society members that have contributed. Aaron Frisby, owner of Lake Cowichan’s tube rental business The Tube Shack, floats down the river every Sunday, cleaning the river as he goes.
At least one Cowichan River property owner has placed a bucket at the end of their dock with “Empties” written on the side, encouraging empty recyclables be placed in the bucket instead of being sunk into the river.
Last year’s cleanup had 73 volunteers help haul in one truck load of recyclables and two truck loads of garbage. Mountain Man will take care of hauling.