Brenda wrote a letter to the editor outlining her frustration that she couldn't find a clean spot to sit at the local public beach due to the amount of bird droppings. When the letter was published on the 'Williams Lake News and Events' Facebook page, there was an immediate response from other local residents; some felt the beach was fine the way it is -- more were in agreement with Brenda. By 9:00 that evening, a citizens task force had formed from that discussion forum, and the following day a group met at the beach, rakes in hand, and transformed the beach at Scout Island into something Williams Lake can be proud of.
Brenda explained that she hadn't expected anyone to show up, but said she was thankful for the ladies and kids who helped. "I have a full-time job, so I don't know how much I can really do, but I plan to see what can be done for the future. I believe that people on social assistance do 10 hours of community volunteer work per month, they can get an addition $100 on their cheque. Maybe that is a solution."
Sherry Gibson said she came to help because she saw it on Facebook and because she was a long-time friend of Brenda's. Sherry's six year old granddaughter Phoenix Sim, and eight year old grandson Owen Sim, gave up a day of quading to rake the beach. Local youth worker, Tanya Hutchinson said she was there to help because she hadn't felt comfortable bringing her own kids to the beach in many years because it has been in such poor condition.
(Photo: Sherry Gibson with her grandchildren Phoenix and Owen Sim.)
Jenny Noble, Coordinator with the Scout Island Nature Centre, helped with the beach clean-up, as well. She supplied the wheelbarrow to make carrying the bags of garbage into the parking lot a little easier. "The big message I'm getting here is how important Scout Island is to everybody," Jenny said. " I often come in early to my job at the Nature House and the City staff is already here mowing, raking, spreading new sand and generally cleaning up the beach, boat launch and picnic area. The whole place belongs to the Nature Trust of BC, but the City leases it. The City has responsibility for the beach, the boat launch, the picnic area and the buildings."
Williams Lake residents Ardene and Ken Gilbert were at the beach that morning. They explained that they bring their young ones to the beach three or four times a week for two to three hours at a time. "My husband doesn't usually come specifically because of the bird droppings,” Ardene said, adding that she has brought her own rake with her a few times just to make a clean spot to sit. "It's a shame it has to be done by volunteers. The bird droppings are a health concern -- it is waste from the animals and it's toxic. We try to make sure they don't put their fingers in their mouth, but we're also eating here. It's tough because kids love to put their hands in their mouth."
"I split my time between the water park and here, this is really the only beach we have for the children,” Ardene said. “ I prefer not to swim here. I have gone in a couple times to retrieve children, but it's dirty. I don't like it."
(Photo: Ardene and Ken Gilbert at Scout Island.)
In total, the group raked for a little more than an hour and removed 18 twenty-pound bags from the area.
Emily Roberts, a first-year summer student with the City, was on site to pick the bags up very shortly after they were placed by the trash bins in the parking lot. She said she had received a call from her foreman specifically asking for her to gather those bags.
The City of Williams Lake Streets Foreman, Matt Sutherland, who is handling the Parks Division while the foreman is away on medical leave, explained that measures have been taken in the past to keep geese off the beach. "We installed a fence, but geese can fly, so that didn't work," he said. "The Parks Division is discussing some new ideas, but because it is a nature centre, there aren't a lot of options."
"It's nice to hear from the public about their concerns, so we can work with them to better our future," Matt concluded.
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