Queen's Royal Park is a little bit cleaner today, thanks to a group of environmentalists who made their way to the water's edge Sunday to pick up garbage.
The beachfront park, situated at the mouth of the Niagara River in Niagara-on-the-Lake, offered up 6,452 pieces of litter for eager folks to help clean up.
Ashley Waters, Liberal candidate for the Niagara Falls riding, which includes Niagara-on-the-Lake, was one of the helping hands, along with her children Liam and Sasha.
"They just finished doing (a cleanup) at school the other day so they're really happy because they've had their test run at school. So now today they are pros at the park cleanup, right guys?" Waters said.
She said she's good friends with Paddle Niagara's Tim Balasiuk, who helps organize the cleanup day with Rochelle Byrne of A Greener Future.
"So that's why I said that I wanted to come in support of the cleanup — and it's really important for our communities to make sure the shorelines are kept clean."
Liam, 10, and Sasha, 8, said they found a lot of foam, plastic cups, cigarette butts and "lots of bottle caps."
Asked what the message the day sends, Liam said simply: "Don't litter."
"Make sure you throw it in your garbage. Don't just chuck it all (on the ground)," he said, adding that one good thing he noticed was a lot of the litter was in the vicinity of the park's trash cans.
Waters agreed the event also fits in with the Liberal agenda.
"We are all about climate change and making sure there's sustainability for future generations, so that's one of the reasons why I wanted to run for the party in the first place."
Byrne has been organizing the lake cleanups for nine years as part of A Greener Future’s “Love Your Lake” series, which features hundreds of similar blitzes along Lake Ontario. She said it was a good turnout for the first event in two years.
She said about 40 people showed up, each one was armed with a trash grabber and gloves.
“A lot of people, they care about Lake Ontario, they want to see it clean,” Byrne said, adding sometimes it can be deceiving.
“When you come down here, it looks pretty clean when you’re first looking around, but as you can see, there’s a lot to pick up.”
“It’s all the little actions that count,” she said. “A lot of the things we find aren’t even necessary — like a lot of plastic bottles, where, I mean, we have access to clean tap water. So if people started using reusable water bottles, that would be a huge deal.”
“Every person can make a difference. You don’t have to come to a cleanup like this, you can go out on your own and pick up a few pieces of litter. So it’s really nice to have that community pride and take care of the spaces we enjoy.”
Debra Simpson of Virgil was one of the volunteers out Sunday. She's part of a book club concerned about climate change.
“We encouraged each other to take on different responsibilities or to do something, because each person can make a difference. So I thought I would join this group,” she said.
She found a plastic boat, bits of plastic, some bottles — even a diaper.
Her message to people? “Every effort counts, so don’t wait for others. Get out and do something for the environment. And enjoy the water at the same time.”
Balasiuk, who operates Paddle Niagara from the park, is a water bug. He spends more time than most at the park and has been a big driver behind the beach cleanup every year.
He was down closer to the NOTL Golf Club, picking up trash in harder to reach places. He typically takes a boat out, but with a northeast swell Sunday, there was no easy way to tie up the boat.
“So we loaded it back up and we just hiked over and climbed down the hill and pulled everything out.”
He said he was finding things like soccer balls, Styrofoam, dip bottles, plastic bottles and liquor bottles. He even found himself a souvenir.
“I got the 'I love Krusty the Clown' Simpsons basketball,” he laughed.
He said he was “extremely happy” to see how much garbage was removed from the lake and park, and also to see lots of community faces.
“Lots of locals came out, so, (it was) huge for me,” he said.
His message? “It’s really just to bring awareness,” he said. “There’s garbage out there. It’s not always intentional litter. It blows out of garbage cans and that sort of thing. And I think it’s just social awareness. Really.”
A little bit goes a long way, he said.