Monday, September 21, 2009

TD Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup on Tsawwassen Beach

THIS is why we do it.

Over 300lbs of miscellaneous, large-items were found along the beach.

Over 152 golf balls and 8 "toys" were found in the tidal flats.

Team 1 sets out towards the ferry causeway.

Abandoned Cars embedded in the beach in Pacific Rim National Park

Over the past few months we have been inspired by the 100 Mile Challenge, the eat local movement, films like "Blue Gold: World Water Wars" from Purple Turtle Films and Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth". We went to the Vancouver Aquarium and found literature on Ocean Wise and found out that there are entire restaurants who's menus are built on local, sustainable and ocean-wise foods.

In May, we spent a week in Tofino in the Pacific Rim National Park. We were so taken aback by the raw, natural beauty and the power of the ocean. If you took some time, you could imagine it looking not much different before people (specifically in later history) came in to log, fish and use the resources for profit. We went for a day-long walk on the beach during our week there and came upon a stream that flowed right over the whole depth of the beach, on its way to the tide line. This stream was a different colour. It was the colour of rust. As we followed the stream further, the colour of the sand also became rust coloured and further still, we found the source. Car parts. Batteries, tires, wheel drums, entire car chassis, steering columns...and among the 5 or 6 whole car chassis we found, there was also the added bonus of slowly leaking engine oil and gasoline. Oily rainbows slicked the sand and the stream as it meandered its way into the tide line at the ocean. This, automobile pollution, left in the sand and dunes, in a National Park that citizens of Canada and visitors from around the world laud as an epitome of nature preservation. We were dumbfounded. How had this been left? How had no one come to remove these car skeletons and clean up the oil and gasoline? How does this still happen? Why?

While out on our Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary RHIB, we have seen plenty of garbage and debris floating on the surface of the water: Tim Horton's disposeable cups, Starbucks cups, aluminum cans and plastic bags. We can't stop to pick it up. That's not part of our mission in the CCGA-P.

But, we then came home to Ladner and went looking for something to add our energies to, some sort of thought-into-action gesture that COUNTS for something. To make things better on a scale that we CAN have an impact on.

This weekend, we did it. We got together with strangers, united in our intent to clean up a shoreline.

We found the TD Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup through the Vancouver Aquarium web site. We found out that during the September 19th through 27th span, not only Canada, but the World was participating in shoreline clean-ups. We sifted through the Canada-wide map and saw that zero shoreline cleanups were registered as open to the public in Delta. So, instead of waiting for some intrepid Delta coordinator, we decided to site coordinate our very own. Why wait?!

It has certainly been a learning process. Site coordinators have to perform a veritable plethora of tasks: register the site, communicate with the municipality, register the cleanup with them, organize the municipality's pickup of the garbage and recycling, communicate key information with every person that registers as a participant, make sure to familiarize oneself with all the media Q & A's, know the history of the event, INSPIRE PEOPLE TO PARTICIPATE, make sure the data cards are filled out correctly, compile the data and send everything back in.

We met our volunteer crew at the local Tim Hortons - both an easy-to-find meeting place and a convenient source of doughnuts and coffee :)

We caravaned down to Tsawwassen Beach, set up, signed waivers and talked data collection. The beach itself is approximately 3 kilometres long and stretches between the ferry causeway and the border at Point Roberts. That's a lot of ground to cover...

I set the first team free on their shoreline cleanup quest. Within the hour, more people showed and some residents of Tsawwassen Beach came out to participate. I sent them off as Team 2. An entire family showed up ready to go, and I sent them out as Team 3. With 12 people scouring the beach and the tidal flats, still more people came out to unofficially participate. They brought me garbage they had found on their own, and I catalogued what they found so the data wouldn't be lost.

Tsawwassen Beach was supposed to be a "clean beach" because residents do their own daily cleanup. However, at the end of the afternoon, after 3.5 hours of shoreline cleanup, my three teams and 5 unofficial participants had collected and cleaned up over 300lbs of large item garbage including deck furniture, construction debris, re-bar and a railway tie. They collected over 60lbs of recyclables and 180lbs of regular garbage that could be catalogued.

Strange and unique to Tsawwassen Beach, was the collection of approximately 152 golf balls embedded within the tidal flats all along the stretch of beach.

I'm immensely grateful to all of the participants who registered and all of those who just showed-up and gave their time and energy to remove all of that human-derived waste from the shoreline and tidal flats.

I'm very proud of what we all accomplished yesterday and we're already thinking about what to do next year.

I can only hope that next year, more people in Canada and across Delta will come and participate in the TD Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup to help conserve shore and ocean habitats, keep beaches and the food chain garbage-free.

But no matter what, even if its just me and my partner, next year we'll be out there again. Its so worth it. So, so, so worth every, stinky, filled garbage bag.

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