Around 20 volunteers picked up garbage at several illegal dumping sites along the Green River Forest Service Road last weekend in a cleanup organized by the Pemberton Wildlife Association (PWA).
With help from the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) and Lilwat Forestry Ventures, volunteers collected a wide array of garbage, including several pickup truck loads of tires, mattresses and metal and household waste.
The PWA hired a dump truck and Lilwat Forestry Ventures brought an excavator along, explained Allen McEwan, president of the PWA.
"Having those machines there was a big plus. We were able to cover a lot of ground in a short time," he said.
The site of the clean up is of particular significance to the PWA as it sits adjacent to the Pemberton Wetlands Wildlife Management Area.
This is an area that is home to a rich array of animals and species, and was given the designation of "critical marsh habitat for waterfowl and fish" in 2011.
"It's one of the few untouched (wetlands) zones we have in the valley where it's not diked. It's not been cleared by farming or agriculture. It's still pretty much in its natural state," said McEwan.
Of concern during the cleanup were the number of empty propane tanks collected—these are used for shooting practice. The area falls in a "shot only zone" that surrounds Pemberton, meaning that while shooting shots (small led bullets used for bird hunting) is permitted, shooting bullets is not, said McEwan.
"Projectiles go a long way, and in this particular area there is not a safe backstop," he said. "So if people were walking or riding their bikes on the roads above they would be in the line of fire."
The PWA is planning on putting up signs to inform people of the firearms regulations in the area.
"We're going to let people know that they're not supposed to be shooting rifles and shotguns with slugs there," said McEwan.
He is also looking for action on yard waste, which was found in piles along the road, posing a risk of spreading invasive species into the wetland zone.
Right now, Pemberton residents need to travel to Sea to Sky Soils on South Rutherford Creek Road and pay a fee to drop off yard waste, as Pemberton's waste transfer station does not accept it.
"The present system is not meeting the needs of the residents. We need to do a better job," said McEwan.
Relief may be in sight. The SLRD is currently seeking funds to build a new waste transfer site in the Pemberton Industrial Park on a half-acre parcel (1950 Venture Place) it purchased in 2016.
The SLRD is seeking to obtain a $1,375,000 loan over a 30-year term period for the project through an Alternative Approval Process (AAP).
(The deadline for elector responses for the AAP is 4:30 p.m. on May 14, 2018.)
The new transfer station may accept yard waste—something McEwan and others want to see.
Area C Director Russell Mack said he was thrilled with the cleanup and pleased with the difference that a "No Dumping" sign, installed last year, seemed to be making.
"I think we're making headway on (illegal dumping)," said Mack. "There's not as much debris being dumped on the side roads as we were seeing. It seems to have slowed down."
Mack also floated the idea of putting bins, for metal and household furniture (including mattresses), at the Devine Transfer Station in the spring and fall to help address the issue of illegal dumping.
"I know we've talked about trying to get bins in there for everything, so we don't have to get our constituents to go to Whistler or Squamish," said Mack.
For many in the community, getting the pristine area around Green River clean is vital to the overall health of Pemberton. "It's nice to go there and walk around and enjoy the area," said Pemberton councillor Ted Craddock, adding that it was disappointing to see how much stuff was dumped there.
"When you're continually looking at waste, it certainly takes away from the pristine area. It was a lot of fun to see that area get cleaned up."
To learn more about the SLRD's Alternative Approval Process for its proposed waste transfer system, check out the SLRD's website at: www.slrd.bc.ca/inside-slrd/current-projects-initiatives/alternative-approval-process-aap-pemberton-and-district-transfer-station-loan-authorization-bylaw.