More than 30 people turned out on Saturday to scoop up litter along the Niagara Parkway as part of a World Cleanup Day event organized by the town’s environmental advisory committee.
In just two hours, about a dozen large bags of recycling and garbage were picked up, said Kyra Simone, one of the organizers.
But litter was lighter than previously noted by scouts as the Niagara Parks Commission apparently did its own cleanup along the parkway the day before, one participant in World Cleanup Day told The Lake Report.
Simone, who writes The Lake Report's "Keeping it Green" environmental column, hopes the community cleanup becomes a new tradition in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Members of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Rotary Club showed up to help run the event and help in the cleanup as well.
Coun. Sandra O’Connor was on hand as a member of the environmental advisory committee.
O’Connor deferred all responsibility for organizing the environmentally conscious event to Simone and Owen Bjorgan, two young leading environmentalists in NOTL and members of the advisory committee.
“We are here today because of them,” O’Connor said.
The event was originally scheduled to take place in the spring but COVID-19 restrictions delayed it twice, Simone said.
Finally, the blitz was moved to Sept. 18, but not without some bureaucratic hurdles.
Since the cleanup was an organized event taking place on land owned by the parks commission it was subject to a lengthy permitting process, Simone said.
She and Bjorgan needed to get liability insurance, organize garbage pickup with the commission and get a special events permit from the town.
“We didn’t know about these hurdles,” Simone said during an interview at the event.
“I didn’t know about them either,” O’Connor laughed.
Locations along the Niagara River were chosen for their convenient parking and immediate access to the areas of the parkway that had been scouted by Simone and Bjogan as some of the most litter-filled.
Jeannie Manning, a representative of the Rotary Club, had some suggestions for how the commission could better manage litter in its parks.
“Along the parkway, we need animal-resistant garbage lids,” Manning said while gesturing to a nearby garbage bin that had no covering whatsoever.
“Every time a garbage pail fills up, before the commission can get to it, the animals— skunks and raccoons— get into it and whip it everywhere. We’re suggesting that it might be a good idea to have animal-proof lids.”
Manning said the introduction of animal-proof lids would remove a lot of trash from the parks by keeping it in the bins.
The event was never intended to be a part of World Cleanup Day but, serendipitously, the dates lined up.
Manning said she picked the day not realizing the international connection.
And, by a simple twist of fate, what could one day grow into NOTL’s biggest environmental blitz had its inaugural day.
“It’s the first World Cleanup Day official event (in NOTL), so, why not do it again next year?” Simone said.
The Rotary Club is an international organization and the NOTL chapter and other clubs in the region and across the river in the United States are collectively part of District 7090. Together, they are enacting the “Great Lakes Watershed Cleanup,” Manning said.
The plan is ambitious, covering not only the Great Lakes, but the entire Great Lakes drainage basin consisting of all the creeks and rivers associated with the watershed, Manning said.
Angela Lindfield showed up to help and shared a motivation that will probably sound familiar to most ardent trail walkers.
“I love walking this parkway and often I go by and see garbage and think, ‘Oh gosh, I should pick that up,’ but (I don’t),” Lindfield said.
It was her first time involved in a cleanup project and she said it won’t be her last.
Simone was proud of the initiative residents showed.
“I’m really glad people took me up on collecting garbage and recycling separately. There were a lot of bottles and cans, as expected,” Simone said.
The 26-year-old Simone just finished earning a second master's degree – in science communication at Laurentian University – is getting ready to start her PhD at McMaster’s School of Earth, Environment and Society.
On top of that she has been on the environmental advisory committee for the last year, has collected over 5,000 cigarette butts off the street around NOTL in the last few weeks, routinely organizes a small group of friends to do private cleanup events at parks, works in a lab at McMaster and finds time to write her regular columns for The Lake Report.
Dr. Bill Rapley has been involved in environmental causes his whole life and is the NOTL rep on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. He also was a longtime employee at the Toronto Zoo.
Rapley was one of the most motivated cleaners of the day.
He perused the shore of Smuggler’s Cove picking up anything and everything that looked like junk. He even found some old pieces of pottery that he slid into the back pocket of his trousers.
For Rapley, participating in cleanup events isn’t just about caring for the environment.
“You always have to show the example. It’s really easy to go to conferences and sit back and say, ‘We need to do this and that,’ ” Rapley said down at Smugglers Cove.
“Showing the example anyway you can is extremely important.”
Rapley recalled a tree planting years ago that had bankers and lawyers taking part.
“When you get a banker digging in the ground and putting a tree in, that’s progress,” he said.
Rapley stressed the importance of people getting in touch with the environment and said the increase in hikers throughout the pandemic could be a blessing in disguise for environmentalists.
"Once people get out and they start hiking and getting around they start to connect, right? That's what it's all about," he said.