The Thousand Islands Association for the Preservation of River Quality (TIA) took to the St. Lawrence River shoreline on Saturday for its second annual river cleanup.
“I don’t understand why people can enjoy this and think that it’s okay to leave garbage,” says TIA Environmental Co-Chair Janet Smith-Staples.
The cleanup event saw 32 volunteers, ranging in age from 11-years-old to mid-70s, spend the day picking up trash along the riverside in Gananoque, Ont.
“It’s a real eye-opener,” says TIA President Petter Fitton. “You think that someone else is looking after the trash until you get out there and actually look under the rocks and behind the trees and you find out. I think, maybe, we as a community could do a little better job cleaning up after ourselves.”
TIA representatives say they are happy to have been able to remove the garbage from the shoreline, having picked up roughly 25 bags of garbage (1.5-2 truckloads full) from six different spots in the Thousand Islands.
“It takes time,” says Smith-Staples. “I mean, you could pick up a little cup of blue polystyrene and it could take you an hour and a half, two hours, to sort it all, pick it all and get it all. And you think ‘Oh, what have I done?’ But that’s huge. You’ve probably just saved a bunch of fish.”
While garbage dumpsters are available to the public at larger beach areas along the river front, the TIA says that smaller shorelines are often neglected.
“I know that there are signs everywhere, you know, ‘You pack it in, you pack it out.’ And I don’t know why that’s so difficult to understand. It’s like they don’t even see the sign, or the sign isn’t prominent, or they just don’t care,” says Smith-Staples.
For young volunteers like 12-year-old Amelia Nelson, keeping the river clean is a priority.
“If we just continue, it’s killing the Earth and it’s not good for the environment and it’s good to clean up so the environment becomes cleaner,” says Nelson, who is visiting for the summer.
She goes on to say that she hopes to be back to help with the cleaning efforts again next year.
The TIA is calling on more community volunteers to look around when walking by the river and pick up anything that doesn’t belong. And when given the chance, volunteer.