To say Rick Simpson is happy with the way the clean up of Middle Vernon Creek turned out on Saturday would be an understatement.
With more than a hundred volunteers participating, including a contingent of 36 cadets and their officers from the Vernon military camp, the turnout exceeded Simpson’s expectations.
Simpson, a member of the Oceola Fish & Game Club, organized the clean up in cooperation with the Carmen Stanek of the Lake Country Environmental Society.
It’s some thing he’s got some experience organizing this kind of clean up, having been involved in several in the Lower Mainland.
“You never know how many people are going to turn out,” says Simpson.
“If it was a rainy day, you might get five people to turn out and if the weather was nice, you might get fifty.”
But if Simpson is happy with the number of people willing to help, he’s less happy with the junk that was pulled out of the creek.
As the crews scoured the creek between Duck and Wood Lakes, they found much of the usual sort of litter.
However, Simpson adds, they found lots of items that should never have found their way into the creek.
In Simpson’s own section, the clean up crew turned up several surprises, including a empty five-gallon container of gunwash solvent, and an ancient structure that Simpson believes was once used as a platform for dumping into the creek.
“It was an education for everyone who participated,” Simpson says.
“You have to see it to believe it.”
Other crews found equally odd objects: street signs, lawnmowers, bicycles, footballs, mattresses even one spot where kitty litter had been dumped down the bank, apparently for some years.
And tires, Simpson adds, tires were everywhere. “I don’t think there was one group that didn’t report tires.”
But even with the large amount of trash removed from the creek, Simpson says there’s still much more to do.”
“We just got the tip of the iceberg. In two hours, that’s all you really can do,” says Simpson.
Now, organizers of the event hope that the hands-on education received will make a lasting impression.
Simpson says he hopes the volunteers are asking themselves questions, like ‘how did we let this happen?’ and ‘what do we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?’
“There’s an ongoing stewardship that has to flow from this within the community,” says Simpson.
“This has to be a reality check and a wakeup call.”
While there were many groups participating, including groups from Interior Savings, the Environmental Society and others, it’s the younger participants, the cadets and the scouts, that Simpson has the greatest hopes for.
“What a terrific group of kids, the parents of those kids must be so proud,” says Simpson.
“And the scouts, too. 11 & 12-year-old kids hoofing it through the creek.”
The volunteers will take home a lasting impression of the creek, Simpson says, which he hopes will lead to them taking greater ownership in the future.
“The more often we do this,” he says, “the more ownership people will take.”
Residents and business near the creek should take more of stewardship role, he adds, rather than relying on others to clean up.
“The people that actually live in the watershed need to take more responsibility,” says Simpson.
“If they just took responsibility for their own area that backs onto the creek, five years from now we wouldn’t have anything to do.”
He also hopes that people will take away an impression of the good as well as the bad.
The riparian area around the creek is heavily vegetated, he says and there are many natural spawning beds that are in good shape.
“My group saw carp and minnows,” he says.
“In spite of the abuse that we’re focusing on, life for these critters seems to go on.”
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