QCT Shoreline Cleanup recruits Naval Reservists

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Photo: Danielle Burns

The QCT cleanup effort was greatly reinforced by help from HMCS Montcalm Naval Reserve and Naval Reserve Headquarters and their mascot, Sonar.

The second edition of the Quebec Chronicle Telegraph Shoreline Cleanup was a huge success thanks to the busload of HMCS Montcalm Naval Reservists who arrived to lend many hands Saturday morning. About 25 reservists came in work dress for the annual fall cleanup that is underway from September 21 to 29 involving over 42,000 Canadians across the country.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is a joint initiative of the Vancouver Aquarium and the World Wildlife Federation, cleaning shorelines from coast to coast for the past 20 years.

Last year our cleanup effort attracted just 11 participants, mostly friends and family signed up by QCT staff, and covered the St. Charles River near Park Victoria. This year, over 30 participants took on a wildly ambitious route in the Parc Les Saules, a section of the St. Charles River Linear Park that runs through the Duberger neighbourhood bordered by boulevards Wilfred-Hamel and Père Lelièvre. Some 10 km of trails followed the meandering river, and passed through swamps, grasslands and thickly treed areas.
Sub-Lieutenant Geneviève Aubé-Lessard contacted the QCT to offer their man (and woman) power. The Naval Reserve mascot, a Newfoundland dog named Sonar, came out to motivate trash pickers, giving hugs and high-paws! One reservist remarked that many pedestrians not involved in the cleanup stopped on the trail to ask what was going on and why, creating a perfect "teaching opportunity" to inform the public about the movement.

Conscientious citizen Cynthia Bellavance, who was not part of the Naval Reserves, signed up to help after hearing about the cleanup through a charitable organization. Although it was her first time joining a shoreline cleanup, she said she had sometimes picked up litter on her own initiative when she lived in the neighbourhood. The hard-working Bellavance was determined to remove large, heavy objects that had sunk in the river or were filled with mud, such as tires and a children's bicycle. Sporting a pair of rubber boots, Bellavance was able to get at items in wet areas others couldn't reach.

The weather, with a high of 22 degrees, gave participants one last taste of summer. Some dripped with sweat from the physical labour. Trashy treasures were diverse, although a lot of plastic was found.

Quirky items included a 1963 Quebec licence plate, a deflated raft, a plastic toy boat and a credit card. Some reservists noted the pointlessness of discoveries such as full doggie-doo plastic bags left behind by owners. "It would be more biodegradable if you just left it out of the bag," remarked one young man - not that that is encouraged either!

Even the tiniest piece of litter can have damaging effects on waterways like the St. Charles River, which flows into the St. Lawrence and eventually empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Billions of small pieces of trash make a mountain, and effects are far-reaching. According to the GCSC, debris can entangle or (if ingested) choke wildlife and fish and in the long run will have a negative impact on water quality and cleanliness. During last year's Canada-wide cleanup, a total of 45 animals (even a fox) were found entangled. One dead bird, possibly a falcon, was spotted in a tree along the St. Charles River, too high up to reach to discover the source of the entanglement that caused its death.

Naval reservist Andrée-Anne Pelletier reflected on her past experiences with the cleanup, organized by Lieutenant Serge Sabourin for four consecutive years. Pelletier missed out last year when coordinator Sabourin was posted to Halifax. Pelletier commented that the joint effort between the Quebec Aquarium, the Navy and a group for the protection of the park was a winning combination to ensure an "efficient" event.

"The first year we were not that well-organized but the next years (with the help of an all-terrain vehicle and a trailer to come and pick up heavy bags) were much better." With no such equipment this year, volunteers had to carry, roll or drag items back to the meeting point by Maison O'Neill where there were large garbage and recycling receptacles.

Petty Officer Alexandra Kiraly moved to Quebec City just six weeks ago but wanted to meet her community. Born in Hungary, Kiraly explained that she learned French in Belgium after she and her family left their homeland as refugees in the late 1980s. They immigrated to Canada soon after, moving to Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto before she settled in Victoria. "What better way to get to know your city and the people than to participate in something like this?" commented the first-time litter-buster.

After hungry troops refueled with boxed lunches in the shade, they scrutinized a final loop and added more garbage to the dumpster before boarding the bus shortly before 2:00 p.m. This year's coordinator Shirley Nadeau estimated the total 53 bags of trash and additional large items (including 8 tires) to weigh in at a whopping 1,290 lbs.

The much-needed help, on the day of the autumnal equinox, was greatly appreciated and, as a result, Quebec City's waterways are lighter by over half a ton of garbage and much cleaner.