Mural made of awful stuff

STRAIT SCOOP: We overlook a small sliver of those waters every day, but must not overlook our role in protecting the ocean’s future.

At first glance, the Phoenix Middle School table set up for Saturday’s Ocean’s Day celebration seemed to feature a whimsical mural depicting the life forms found along B.C.’s beaches.

In reality, the mural was garbage.

That’s not to denigrate the artistic skills of the youngsters and their adult helpers, who created a brightly painted, multi-layered and creative portrayal of kelp, crabs, fish, sea stars, waterfowl and more. The creatures cavorted on a colourful backdrop of shoreline, oceanfront and tidal pools.

Which is precisely where the students collected all the trash used to make the mural.

World Ocean’s Day is recognized in communities in many parts of the world. It has become particularly popular in British Columbia, where organizers throughout coastal communities create child-friendly environments with crafts, games and fish-painting.

But do not let the fun and games mask the seriousness of the plight facing our oceans, which “Marine Detective” Jackie Hildering of Port McNeill calls the life force for the planet.

We overlook a small sliver of those waters every day, but must not overlook our role in protecting the ocean’s future.

Both residents and visitors are drawn to Campbell River for its fishing, boating and other marine activities. Just Monday afternoon, spectators flocked to Discovery Pier and other spots along the waterfront to watch the sleek sailboats of the VanIsle 360 race pull into town. But a stroll through the booths set up for Ocean’s Day in the parking lot between Discovery Passage Aquarium and the Maritime Heritage Centre show the water supports much more than recreation.

Along with displays like the Phoenix students’ mural, hot dog and cake providers and kids face-painting and crafts, the lot featured information from government agencies (Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard); from commercial operators who make their living offering diving supplies and tours, underwater remotely operated vehicles, and marine preparedness and response.

Also attending were the City of Campbell River, Comox-Strathcona Waste Management and environmental stewards from Greenways Land Trust and the Dogwood Initiative.

The message of Ocean’s Day is to keep the oceans free of the tonnes of trash that are dropped or that flow into them each year.

The Phoenix students took that message to heart. Their mural was created with garbage collected in a series of beach clean-up events in Campbell River.

To drive the point home, a look behind the mural revealed multiple totes of additional trash which did not make the cut for the art project, or simply proved to much to fit into it.

Yes, creative minds can turn beach trash into replicas of marine life.

But if you want to see a real work of art, it’s hard to beat the view of a trash-free waterfront.