With 75 volunteers, both Cowichan Lake and River Stewards members and others from the community and around Vancouver Island, the CLRSS kicked off its 4th Annual River Clean-up on Saturday Aug. 25.
Volunteers rolled into the parking lot at the town office with row boats and kayaks in tow and their willingness to take part in this two day venture.
On Saturday, teams were assigned sections of the Cowichan River from the weir in Lake Cowichan all the way down to Skutz Falls.
Divers from the Cowichan area, Crofton, and from Sundown Diving in Nanaimo, were assisted by those in boats as they brought loads of recyclables and garbage up to the surface.
But there were also those who helped out by walking along the river’s edge, or by scouring the shallows in boats or on foot.
Organizer and CLRSS president, Gerald Thom, says that the efforts of volunteers meant the retrieval of approximately a ton of garbage.
“And recyclables, cans and bottles, I’ll bet you we’re going to have at least $500,” said Thom, all of which will go to organizing the event next year.
“We did every section that we wanted to get done, we did the whole thing,” said Thom.
The variety and types of garbage found was astounding, from a park sign, skim boards, old logging cables, chairs, a telephone, and a garbage can to a television set thrown off the 66 mile trestle (which could not be retrieved), and the expected full bottles of beer and alcohol, including an unopened bottle of Fireball whiskey.
Though they agreed that this year and last year were not as bad for the amount of garbage recovered compared to when the clean-up initiative first began, volunteers still shook their heads, boggled at the fact that they still get as much as they do considering the amount of effort that has gone into creating public awareness.
“One thing about the beer cans,” said CLRSS member Joe Saysell, “is that they are a death trap for crayfish.”
He said he recovered quite a few cans with crayfish inside that had grown too big to get out themselves. He said he had to cut the cans open to set the critters free.
Another thing that annoyed Saysell was the amount of golf balls he and the divers found at the bottom of the pool below the weir.
“If they want to hit some golf balls, go up to the high school field,” said Saysell, “rather than knocking them into the river.”
He said the balls pose no real threat to wildlife or the ecosystem, “it’s just plain litter.”
In all, they found enough golf balls to fill a quarter of a garbage bag.
One of the most unusual finds of the day was a long iron T-rod tossed somewhere down by the mile 66 trestle. Volunteers spent some time trying to figure out what the rod could have been used for.
Volunteers were fed hamburgers and hotdogs after they returned from their garbage collecting adventures, and the next day, Thom, and many of the same volunteers started the venture all over again, making their way from Sandy Pools down to Cowichan Bay.
Garbage was taken away by Wayne Atkinson of Mountain Man Services, and recyclables were taken away by Darren Thomas of the Cowichan Valley Bottle Depot. The major sorting of the recyclables took place on the Sunday.
Orka Tube and Kayak Rentals worked in cooperation with CLRSS this year, providing free tube and kayak rentals to volunteers, and donating bottles and cans — saved from river garbage cans they have set up between the weir and Little Beach — to the cause.