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Capturing hearts and minds at the Great Lake Clean Up

Volunteers needed for Aug. 12 effort to remove garbage from Whistler's waterways

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After seeing a recent photo on social media showing the mounds of garbage left behind at Joffre Lakes, Roger McCarthy became convinced that a major culture shift is needed if Whistler's lakes are going to avoid a similar fate.

The former municipal councillor has been doing his part over the years to change that culture as the organizer of Whistler's Great Lake Clean Up. Marking its fifth edition on Aug. 12*, the annual event sees a small army of volunteers and trained divers retrieve garbage from the community's most popular waterways. So far, volunteers have pulled "over a ton" of trash from Whistler's lakes, McCarthy estimated.

"I'm really thrilled at the support we've been able to get from the community and the number of people who have come out and educated their kids on how important it is to keep these lakes clean," he added.

Considering how busy Whistler has become, McCarthy is hopeful guests enjoying the community's scenic lakes will take a page from the backcountry user's playbook and remove whatever trash is brought in.

"Maybe something we should be talking about is the number of people that use these fragile alpine lakes. Pack it in, pack it out," he said.

"Either we've got to modify our behaviour or we're going to have people monitoring the trash situation in every one of our parks and they're going to be paid for by the taxpayers."

Last year, another busy waterway was added to the clean-up efforts: the River of Golden Dreams. McCarthy has his fingers crossed that enough volunteers will come out next week to take on the popular spot for boaters and floaters.

"I don't know if we're going to have a crew in the River of Golden Dreams, but I'd sure like to," he said. "It takes the most abuse (out) of anything around here."

Since launching in 2013, the Great Lake Clean Up has resulted in some interesting finds. One year, someone discovered the seat of a vintage car, while a lucky volunteer at the 2016 event turned up a wallet — filled with $100 in (soggy) cash.

"You never know what you're going to find," McCarthy noted.

Those interested in taking part in the Great Lake Clean Up should meet at Lakeside Park on Aug. 12 at 9 a.m. Snacks and beverages will be provided.

*An earlier version of this article noted the Great Lake Clean Up taking place Aug. 5 this year. It is actually scheduled for Aug. 12. Pique regrets the error.

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