Douglas College volunteers part of record turnout at the Fraser River
By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor
Despite falling temperatures and rain that is typical of the first full day of autumn, a record 80 people braved the elements for a lofty environmental purpose.
The New Westminster Shoreline Cleanup, which took place on September 22, removed all kinds of waste from the South Dyke Road Riverfront, including large blocks of Styrofoam, plastic buckets, a tire, an oil drum, and even two television sets. The cleanup marks the beginning of RiverFest, an environmentally themed art festival inspired by the Fraser River.
Karla Olson, the coordinator for this year’s cleanup, said that she was thrilled with the turnout despite the rotten weather.
“When I saw the rain in the morning, my heart sank,” said Olson. “But you didn’t see that disappointment on the faces of the 80 volunteers who showed up with rain gear and gloves ready to work.”
Olson noted that volunteers came from all across the Lower Mainland and included New Westminster councillor Jonathan Cote, as well as a contingent from RBC Dominion Securities and Douglas College.
“Taking care of our environment and [its] natural habitats really is a regional effort that goes beyond our local shoreline,” said Olson.
Jennifer Henderson, Douglas College’s community connections assistant, confirmed that “over a dozen Douglas College students, employees, and their spouses and friends” participated in the Shoreline Cleanup, “pulling invasive plants and picking up garbage along the banks of the Fraser River.”
Henderson, in an email to the Other Press, said that the terrible weather was unable to dampen the spirits of the crew from Douglas College.
“Despite the rain that blew sideways at times, our volunteers enjoyed the camaraderie and found it very rewarding to be able to pitch in for such a great cause,” said Henderson.
The team from Douglas College was led by Jaycee Clarkson, a student affiliated with Douglas College UNIBUG project, a research initiative looking into natural alternatives to chemical pesticides in urban gardens.
The cleanup at South Dyke Road Riverfront is just one of the many events taking place as part of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Now in its 20th year, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup originated in British Columbia and has grown to become “one of the largest direct action conservation programs.” Last year, over 57,000 volunteers participated in 1,815 registered cleanup sites from coast to coast, picking up over 130,000-kg of waste.
The initiative is particularly important in British Columbia as debris from the 2011 Japan tsunami begins to wash up on the western shores of North America.