Before you read this column, you should read Peter Alder's letter to the editor in this week's issue. Then go back a few weeks to our May 24 issue and read a letter by Charles Leduc on the state of the Whistler Disk Golf Course. I'm not the only person concerned with what Whistler is becoming.
This place is a pigsty. The mountain town we like to pretend is so pristine and so much cleaner than the city is a dirty disgrace. We've let ourselves go.
Most days I walk to work, some days choosing the highway between Spring Creek and Function Junction because it's a little quicker than the Valley Trail. What I see is depressing; both sides of the highway are strewn with garbage, some of it that has been there for years now. There's a toppled sign advertising the Sea to Sky Highway Improvement Project that has been lying there for three years. The nearby woods are full of debris, some blown off the back of trucks, some tossed out of car windows by jerks I assume are listening to terrible music, and some likely dragged there by wild animals. Evidently it's nobody's responsibility to pick it up.
Sometimes I'll bag a few bottles and cans, but it's really too big a job for one person.
As a trail runner and mountain biker, I also venture out in all directions around Whistler. A few years ago I would find the occasional energy gel wrapper that probably fell out of someone's pocket, but in the last few years, and this spring especially, I've stumbled on more and more campfire sites along the trails with bottles and cans thrown everywhere.
The disk golf course is beyond depressing. Cigarette butts, bottles and cans, coffee cups — all tossed on the ground by people that can really only be classified as complete idiots.
It's a sad state of affairs when a municipality can do something awesome like designate a section of a public park to build a 27-hole disk golf course that's free to use — and put garbage and recycling bins right in the middle of it to make it easy to throw out garbage — and yet people continue to throw garbage around. The reality is that one day the muni will probably shut it down because of the forest fire risk and garbage situation that a handful of idiots are creating.
And everywhere I go I find plastic bags full of dog poop carefully placed in public view or hung from trees — presumably left there so someone like myself with a functioning conscience can deal with it. What the hell is wrong with these people?
I've been here long enough that I can say without a doubt that Whistler is getting worse. It's dirtier and shabbier than it's ever been. I can only imagine what tourists think when they walk around and see the way we treat our mountain paradise.
I'm not sure where it all went wrong, but I have a few theories.
One is related to the current economic situation in Canada and high unemployment among young people especially. We used to get people that genuinely wanted to be here, living closer to nature, and now we're getting people that are only really here for the job. They don't love this place or even respect it — and many of them, stuck in low-paying positions, probably resent it a little as well.
Another theory is the lack of a national or provincial anti-littering campaign. I grew up with "Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute!" and other anti-littering efforts that really had an impact on behaviour. However, young people and many new migrants and visitors to Canada have never had anything like that to guide their actions. It's been proven that once people see one piece of litter on the ground, they're a lot more likely to litter themselves. The stigma of being the first is gone. Litter begets litter, and one apple core or cigarette butt sets off a chain reaction in a given area.
I also think the municipality has abdicated its responsibility in some ways. We still don't have neighbourhood garbage collections sites, despite the well-known issue of young people without cars having a hard time getting their garbage to waste transfer stations. I also wonder if our municipality has diversified a little too much into other areas, like planning events while neglecting the core service of sanitation. It's a matter of priorities.Lastly, there's also no enforcement to speak of. When is the last time you saw someone get ticketed for littering? Unless a bear is involved, fines are rare even if litter is not. What would it cost to hang a few signs telling people that there is a fine for littering?
This needs fixing. I refuse to be defined by the lowest common denominator in society, and to see my home trashed by disaffected youth and idiots with a FTW mindset. I pledge to carry more bags around and I'll do what I can.
But I can't do it alone. Who's with me?