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Trash on trails causes a stink

Popular swimming area being used as dump

Tara Trigg | Peak Intern

Published in the Powell River Peak: Wednesday, October 1, 2008

From leftover logging equipment, rusting cars and beer bottles to landscaping refuse and bags of household garbage, the West Lake trails have it all.

The beautiful natural area is filled to the brim with human waste--and not the pre-digested kind.

"I'm just disgusted," said Martin McManus, a guide with Rock and Roll Guest Ranch, located on Padgett Road. "It's just terrible. We live in one of the nicest places in the world--it makes us look like fools."

Over the nights of August 6 and 7, there were at least three truckloads of landscaping waste and a couple of bags of household garbage dumped beside a No Dumping sign near Padgett Road and Valley Road at the base of one of the trails leading into the area.

The sign threatens a $2,000 fine for violators, but the amount of refuse in the area would suggest that no one is taking it seriously.
"I go out and pick up as much as I can," said McManus. "It costs me a fortune to do this. Last night we picked up two garbage cans full of beer bottles and pop cans."

McManus has pulled several truckloads of trash out of the area. He said the problem is frustrating, not only from an environmental standpoint, but because his business has him bringing people from all over the world through the area on horseback.

"It's a real shame, because mountain bikers use the trail, hikers use the trail, riders use the trail," he said. "It's not just me."
Andria Clark, president of Rock and roll Guest Ranch, said that the trash trouble is an ongoing issue, and isn't only confined to the West Lake area.
"It's getting to be a real problem," she said. "It's not just a couple of people; it's more than that."

A horseback ride through the area reveals moulding piles of drywall, bottles, a few entire cars, abandoned and rusting logging equipment, and yes, bags of garbage, mostly nestled between green shrubs and tall grass.
"I'd like them to put a gate up," said McManus. "It would stop people from driving up there."

Clark said that the No Dumping sign is a recent addition, one that doesn't seem to be doing much good.
"The unfortunate part about that sign is that there's no one around to actually enforce the fines," she said. "It's going to continue. Instead of hiring somebody to monitor the situation, the city is just going to close it down, and people won't be able to swim [at West Lake] anymore."

Frances Ladret, Administrator of the Powell River Regional District said that putting the sign up is only the first step.
"We're hoping that it would be a deterrent to people," she said. "A lot of people didn't realize that it was illegal to dump yard waste."
Ladret said that there is a number on the sign that goes to the Conservation Officer.
"If the conservation officer gets a report, they will investigate," she said. "It's very difficult to catch people in the act."

Clark is unsure of how to fix the problem, or if it can be fixed, though she suggests that a once-a-year free junk pickup on the part of the City of Powell River could help. Beyond that, it's up to the community.
"We teach our kids that whatever you bring [into the area], you bring back twice as much," she said. "It's part of our backyard. It's part of Powell River's backyard. It used to be the watershed.

Ladret said that blocking access to the area had been considered, but would be unfair to all the people who use the area.
"It's been very serious in that area for some time, said Ladret. "We're hoping that we won't have to resort to more stringent measures."
For now, those in the area will have to be vigilant, cleaning up after themselves and reporting those who don't.

Martin McManus leads a horse to water while on a trail ride around West Lake.