A diver transfers garbage recovered from the Cowichan River to a volunteer at Lake Cowichan’s Centennial Park during The Tube Shack’s upper river clean-up on Sept. 13. (Kevin Rothbauer/Gazette)

Tube Shack’s annual clean-up shows how far river has come

Less garbage than previous years, owing to years of clean-ups and weekly patrols

Years of annual clean-ups and weekly tidyings by The Tube Shack this summer have had an impact on the upper Cowichan River.

A big end-of-season clean-up on Sunday, Sept. 13 uncovered less garbage than previous similar events, showing that the hard work is paying off.

“The divers who have been there multiple years said it was the best they’d seen it,” said Aaron Frisby, owner of The Tube Shack.

Frisby and The Tube Shack took the lead on the clean-up this year after the Cowichan Lake & River Stewardship Society took a year off, following advice from public health officers. The Tube Shack had already been doing weekly rounds of the river to keep it clean on a regular basis, and decided to take the torch from the CLRSS for one last purge.

A lot of glass was recovered from the river, some of it many years old, but only about 70 beverage cans were pulled out, as opposed to the multiple bags of cans that have been found in previous annual clean-ups. The cans were mostly in the deeper areas, with the shallower parts of the river largely taken care of by the weekly patrols.

“When you go deep, they said about 18 to 22 feet down, that’s where most of it was,” Frisby said. “That’s a bit lower than our regular clean-up.”

That’s not to say there wasn’t anything recovered on the weekend.

“We pulled out about half a ton of garbage,” Frisby noted. “But that included concrete anchors and 20 feet of wire rope. From talking to the divers, in the past they’ve pulled out washing machines and 12-volt batteries.”

Further indicating that the river is healing, divers reported thousands of freshwater crayfish in the depths.

The entire Tube Shack staff and many local volunteers, including a couple of city councillors, were joined by about 25 divers from Sundown Diving in Nanaimo.

Even if the CLRSS runs its own clean-up next year, Frisby might consider another big one like Sunday’s.

“They use theirs for educational purposes too, and it’s usually around Aug. 22 or so,” he said. “We felt it was good to do our clean-up at the end of the season. We’ve always donated to their clean-up too. It probably wouldn’t be the worst to have a couple of clean-ups a year. There’s a natural relationship between us and the stewards.”

The Tube Shack had planned to continue operating until Sept. 20 this year, but decided to shut down earlier because of the smoke from forest fires in the U.S. that has blanketed the west coast, including Vancouver Island.

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Divers surface in the Cowichan River during The Tube Shack’s upper river clean-up on Sept. 13. (Kevin Rothbauer/Gazette)

A boat makes its way to shore to drop off garbage during The Tube Shack’s upper river clean-up on Sept. 13. (Kevin Rothbauer/Gazette)

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