Task Force undertakes clean-up at abandoned homeless camp

Click to play video: 'Local task force cleans large mess of garbage in Kelowna’s backcountry'
Local task force cleans large mess of garbage in Kelowna’s backcountry
Thousands of kilograms of garbage were removed from the James Lake Forest Service Road area after a local task force and its volunteers came together in a massive clean-up earlier today. As Victoria Femia reports, they found one of the largest abandoned homeless camps the group has ever seen. – Jul 9, 2022

The Okanagan Forest Task Force and its volunteers spent almost an entire day cleaning a number of abandoned homeless campsites along James Lake Forest Service Road.

The group started their clean-up around nine in the morning on Saturday and by 11 a.m. they had already filled up an entire dumpster that can hold around 3,000 kilograms of garbage.

“This is definitely one of the worst areas that we’ve seen in this specific location,” said Kane Blake, Founder of the Okanagan Forest Task Force.

“This road stretch is about three kilometres and there’s another garbage pile at the back of it from the same camp.”

Read more: ‘It’s unbelievable’: Huge mess left behind in backcountry near Big White Ski Resort

The task force is compiled of volunteers from all across the Okanagan who work to keep local forests clean and prevent illegal dumping.

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They also have a scuba diving team that rids area lakes of garbage. In a typical dive, the team removes up to 70 kilograms of trash from the water, with some of the most common things being household waste and plenty of bottles and cans.

“I’ve seen people step on broken glass a lot, it sucks and then some of the bottles that we find, I actually find fish dead inside them because they go in, grow and they can’t get back out,” said Ajay Weintz, Okanagan Forest Task Force Scuba Diver.

Read more: Man fined $575 for illegal dumping near Kelowna: B.C. Conservation Officer Service

“So that’s probably pretty harmful to the ecosystem.”

That same damage applies to land and wildlife.

“There’s been a lot of food dumped as well which brings in bears and other wildlife, which could very easily be injured on a lot of the garbage that we’ve seen here today,” said Blake.

One volunteer who came out to Saturday’s clean-up at James Lake FSR says more should be done to keep the Okanagan’s backcountry maintained.

Read more: Non-profits and volunteers team up for annual Peachland watershed cleanup

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“It sadly doesn’t seem to surprise me what goes on in the backcountry and I really feel that there should be some more involvement from the government to oversee these sites when they become like this,” said Robin Bloch, a volunteer.

“It’s our backcountry, people like to come out here and enjoy what we have to offer in B.C.”

This clean-up puts the Okanagan Forest Task Force at about a quarter of a million kilograms of garbage removed from various sites around the Okanagan since 2016.

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