10th annual project cleaned up trash along Niagara Escarpment in Hamilton for Earth Day

A pile garbage collected from areas around Dewitt Avenue on April 24, 2022. Volunteers with the Escarpment Project removed junk as part of a local Earth Day campaign. Facebook / The Escarpment Project

Tires, lingerie, and shopping carts are some of the common items Greg Lenko says he’s salvaged during his years leading the Escarpment Project, an annual cleanup of the Niagara Escarpment in Hamilton.

“Some of these shopping carts, trees were actually growing through them,” Lenko, the project’s founder, told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.

Amid Earth Day — a worldwide initiative on the last weekend of every April demonstrating support for environmental protection—some 400 individuals donated time to clean up some of Hamilton’s dirtiest spots, including brush around Dewitt Road.

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Lenko says a section of that one-way road between Dundee Drive and Ridge Road is one spot  where a “mound” of garbage was retrieved, with at least 20 tires a part of that haul.

“So it’s about 50 feet from the Bruce Trail coming up Dewitt Road, and people will go there in the middle of the night and make a (garbage) dump,” said Lenko.

The stairs at the south end of Wentworth Street South and an area of Rock Chapel Road in Dundas near the sanctuary are also problematic spots at which Lenko’s team have seen piles of refuge over the last decade.

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“I mean, we got licence plates … from the 60s because there was a couple of cars,” Lenko remarked.

“As a matter of fact, the dumpster we got for that area (this year) is loaded with scrap metal … literally the dumpster is taller than I am.”

The not-for-profit Escarpment Project grew out of a Devil’s Punchbowl cleanup dubbed “Project Punchbowl” in February of 2012, which drew close to 100 volunteers.

Having retrieved a dumpster and about 10 trucks worth of garbage, organizers expanded the all-ages enterprise to encompass a path from Chedoke Radial Trail to Albion Falls.

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Lenko says the best turnout over 10 years was about 800 volunteers in 2016. He says the yearly average is about 400.

The Escarpment Project even allows students to complete community service hours, put towards a volunteer requirement for high school graduation.

Donations continue to help cover costs for the event which include insurance and safety equipment.

The city’s contribution includes tools and vehicles to hauls away the junk gathered during the yearly campaign.

Lenko’s ultimate vision of the project is to officially become a charity initiative with the ability to take on sponsors for a much grander event.

“There’s some places that we need a crane to get stuff out, so I can use (those) resources to rent a crane for a day or a week or whatever and pull stuff out,” said Lenko.

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