The power of social media was on display Saturday as a large group of volunteers – many who didn’t know one another – came out to clean up one of the city’s worst illegal dumping grounds.
With a group of around 25 people, organizer Jme Andrew said it was the biggest crew she’s had yet.
Andrew organized the clean up through the Shame the Logging Road Dumpers Facebook page, a site which maps out where people tend to illegally dump their refuse and encourages others to join in the cleanup. The page was started more than three years ago by Bud Logan and Kathleen Sharpe and has evolved into a gathering place for those in the community who have had enough.
Last Saturday, volunteers gave their time to clean up the mess along Duncan Bay Main and Iron River logging roads, up above the Canyon View Trail.
Volunteers, armed with gloves, garbage bags, trailers and high spirits, hauled items such as window frames, old car parts, mattresses, sofas, yard waste and piles of household garbage out of the ditches. The waste was taken to the landfill which waived the tipping fees for the volunteers.
When all was said and done, volunteers had removed 3,212 kilograms of garbage.
Andrew, who runs a horseback riding business, said she first discovered the sorry state of the logging roads after a trip up to the back roads to scope out some riding trails for her clients.
“I’ve never seen so much garbage anywhere else in Canada or even in the southern States than there is here,” Andrew said. “I went on the Rant and Rave (Facebook) page and just started ranting. People told me I should do something about it.”
So she did.
And she recruited an army of volunteers to help her by posting about the cleanup on the Shame the Logging Road Dumpers page.
It was the second such cleanup she’s organized in the last few months. A similar event in December filled several pickup trucks with waste, including things like a living room set and yard waste which Andrew said is especially dangerous to the environment.
“It brings species here that don’t belong here,” she said. “The last time I was up here, there were branches and lawn clippings that had been dumped onto a drainage ditch and it was flooding out an access.”
Luisa Richardson, who teaches environmental education, said people are dumping their waste illegally on back roads and in the woods to avoid tipping fees at the landfill.
“People think it’s free to dump out here but there’s an environmental cost, a social cost and an economic cost,” Richardson said. “Socially – it’s an eyesore. It also encourages more dumping. If people see it, they think it’s okay to do when really all of these materials could have been recycled or disposed of at the landfill.”
Economically, Richardson said, it hurts tourism.
“If people think it’s a pig sty, why would they come here?” she said. There’s also a cost to having bylaw officers come out in an attempt to catch the illegal dumpers. If the government organizes an official clean-up, that money comes out of taxpayers’ pockets, Richardson added.
And lastly, there is an environmental cost.
“Everything will break down and end up in the water table because people are dumping in the ditches,” Richardson said, adding one of the worst items people dump are baby diapers. “There is just a huge cost all around. When people think this is the easy way out, they don’t realize how much the cost is on sustainability.”
But it’s not all bad news.
Andrew said concerned citizens have been taking and posting pictures on social media of illegal dumpers and any identifiable waste in an effort to catch the culprits and make them think twice about their actions.
“People are getting a little more diligent about noticing these people,” Andrew said.
As a thank-you to those who turned out to help clean up on Saturday, Andrew gave all the volunteers discounted riding passes and Fogg Dukkers provided free hot beverages.
Andrew is also eyeing another clean up soon along the back roads near Willis Road where she recently photographed old mattresses, plastic totes and other household waste lying in the ditches.
Volunteers Jme Andrew, left, and Jamie Primeau throw an illegally dumped mattress, found in the ditch of Duncan Bay Main logging road, into the back of a trailer to be taken to the dump.