Employees of SECURE Energy Services rolled up their sleeves and loaded up their trucks to lend a helping hand at the 5th Annual Dunes Cleanup. The South Grande Prairie event rallied the support of over 100 volunteers and together they removed 25.32 tonnes of garbage from the troubled spot.
The Wapiti River Valley region is commonly referred to by local residents as the Dunes. This ecologically sensitive area lies on the North and South sides of the Wapiti River and its winding trails are a popular spot for hiking, horseback riding, biking and driving recreational motorized vehicles.
The Dunes have also become a popular spot for dumping unwanted trash: everything from abandoned vehicles, old appliances and even industrial waste. The trash that was removed this year shatters the record of last year’s cleanup that pulled 168,000 pounds of garbage from the area. Blaine Burke, an Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Officer in the area, said that the increased garbage haul does not necessarily mean that more garbage has been dumped, just that there was an increased capability to remove garbage in the area thanks to the support of companies like SECURE.
The contributions of front-end loaders, dump trucks and picker-trucks allowed the volunteers to pick out larger pieces of junk than in previous years and break the previous records.
“The reason why we gather everybody together is we believe it is a shared problem,” said Burke. “This problem, obviously, is way too big for any one agency, whether it is government or private, to look after.” No one is sure of the exact reason why the site has become so popular for dumping. Much of the garbage collected in the area would have been collected with weekly roadside pickup. And Burke believes that the small cost to leave trash at the dump shouldn’t deter too many people.
Because the area is public property, it is illegal to dump any sort of garbage there. Burke said there’s no easy answer as to why people are not getting the message that the Dunes is not a landfill. The local authorities are looking into the most severe cases of dumping, especially those involving vehicles.
Events like the Dunes Cleanup allow residents to take ownership of the area and hopefully look out for it in the future. Burke urges residents in town to report any signs of illegal dumping in the area to 1-800-222-6514 and hopes that in the future there won’t be a need for the annual cleanup event.