The latest clean up of Central Okanagan forest has produced more than 22,000 pounds of discarded junk.
The latest haul is part of 111,000 pounds of junk pulled out of the bush in the last 10 months by the volunteer Okanagan Forest Task Force.
According to the OFTF, that is 111,000 pounds of damaging, disgusting junk, including scrap metal, nails and garbage, as well as pollutants it says selfish people left in the woods. It also is 111,000 pounds of detrimental waste now where it should be—in the landfill thanks to some very dedicated individuals.
In the past 10 months Okanagan Forest Task Force volunteers have cleaned up the waste of illegal dumping from forests throughout the Central Okanagan.
Organizer Kane Blake said that total number pains him.
“I feel sheer disgust,” said Blake. “That number is crazy in just 10 months. A lot of the sites we go to are constant dumping spots. People don’t seem to get it or care.
“We’ve all had a family pet, and when they’re sick or hurt we are their voice, we take them to the vet. Nobody is speaking up for the wildlife walking through the broken glass or the nails or getting tangled in Christmas lights dumped in the bush or volleyball nets. They suffer in silence.”
This past weekend more than 40 OFTF volunteers drove up Postill Lake Road for one of the group’s biggest cleanups yet.
With the help of several local business sponsors, the army of volunteers cleaned up more than 22,700 pounds of junk; 15,880 pounds of scrap metal and 6,834 pounds of garbage – 10,000 pounds of that was just nails.
“We had such a fantastic turnout, I can’t thank everyone enough,” said Blake.
“We were up there at about 8:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. All of our volunteers are an army with a mission, it’s amazing.”
He noted that part of their success this past weekend was the local companies that donated and supported their work.
“The Rutland Subway donated lunch, cookies and coffee for everybody, Winn Rentals donated the Bobcat which allowed us to do as much as did, Smithrite donated two 40-yard bins for us to fill, Rona Kelowna donated shovels, rakes, boxes of garbage bags, KHS Landscaping brought two landscaping crews with trucks and trailers and equipment, ABC Recycling lent the big magnet truck to pick up the nails, Sean Heddle with 5iveby5ive Media came up and shot photos and video, the Regional District waved dumping fees and gave bags – it was amazing thing, we need more people like that.”
As of September 2016, OFTF has been a legalized non-profit organization that cleans up the forests of the Okanagan, funding purely by donations and member’s own contribution.
“None of us are paid, it is out of pocket, so the help that we get almost brings tears to our eyes. People want to help and we need more people like that,” said Blake. “It’s a huge community effort.”
He was pushed into action after he started to feel like taking his kids into nature, to camp in the woods, was more like taking them to the landfill.
“What is going through your head when you’re literally backed up to a ravine, or in the forest and dumping garbage,” said Blake. “Saving a little money at the landfill is not acceptable.”
Any identifying factors found in the garbage are always provided to police and government officials, but Blake says more needs to be done. His organization is now feeling the need to publicly shame those that have documentation in the mess.
“We will do it now. People need to be made an example of for people to change. We didn’t want to do it, but nothing is changing. If we catch someone dumping on one of our cameras, it will be on the news. It is time to grow up,” said Blake.
The OFTF will also be working with local politicians to advocate for tougher laws when it comes to illegal dumping.
“We want the law to be that if your personal info is found in the garbage, you are held responsible,” said Blake.
“What we have is not working.”
The group itself is starting to get worldwide recognition for their hard work. Blake has received contact from cities and individuals in other provinces and countries asking about how they do what they do and how they may be able help each other in the future.
“I hear from people all over and yet I hear nothing from our own government. They have not reached out to help us funding wise, or offered to see how they can help,” said Blake.
“The government needs to step up. What will happen if we pull the plug on this? We need funding. How much wear and tear am I going to put on my own equipment without seeing a dime of help before I call it quits and go broke?
“We are doing their job…for free.”