(This article was published in the February 28th edition of the Columbia Valley Pioneer)
Watershed Heroes – BC Rockies Adventures
In 2014, this Watershed Wanderings column will celebrate the “watershed heroes” throughout the Columbia River Headwaters region.
What does it take to be a watershed hero? Watershed heroes are ordinary people doing extraordinary work to protect water quality, water supply, and freshwater ecosystems. Their work will ultimately benefit the Columbia River and the people and wildlife that depend on it.
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Cleaning Up the Columbia
The first story I’m going to share takes place on the Columbia River between Fairmont Hot Springs and Lake Windermere. This section of the river flows through Riverside Golf Course and residential neighbourhoods. In the summer, the river is a popular place for people to float on blow-up boats and tubes. Unfortunately, with so much use, the river has suffered from garbage accumulating in the water.
BC Rockies Adventures, a division of Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, offers adventure tours, including kayaking down the Columbia River. When staff saw the beautiful area they were trying to showcase becoming clogged with garbage, they decided to do something about it.
In 2011, BC Rockies Adventures, along with Glacier Raft Company, conducted the first clean-up of the Columbia River. Donning snorkels and flippers, staff and volunteers (experienced in swimming in moving water), dove down into the cold September water bringing up enough garbage to fill ten super-sized trash bags.
River clean-up leader Jocelyn MacGregor proclaims, “I couldn’t believe what was in there!” The most waste by volume was from old tarps and home construction material like house-wrap that had blown into the river. Landscape fabric and plastic bags were also found tangled in roots and branches in the river.
Since the 2011 clean-up, it has been possible, with regular maintenance, to keep up with most of the new trash that enters this stretch of river. The staff of BC Rockies Adventures continue to clean up while taking people on kayak trips.
Prevention is easier than Restoration
With the increasing use of the Columbia, there is a growing need to keep waste from getting into the river in the first place. “Today, the biggest contributor of garbage is from the inflatable plastic boats and tubes that pop while on the river. Not only do the tubes end up as garbage in the river, but also everything the tube was transporting,” said MacGregor. “Our guides often find full cans of beer from floaters that have lost their loot. Full cans of beer means there’s a lot of disappointed floaters (and happy guides), which is yet another reason to take steps in reducing your garbage contribution while floating the river.”” she laughs.
BC Rockies Adventures, along with other business, are helping to reduce the problem by renting commercial-grade tubes that won’t pop. The aim in offering rentals is to reduce the number of popped boats and tubes in the river and decrease the amount of waste created from this growing recreational activity. Instead of purchasing a one-time-use boat, people can rent tubes that will be used over a number of years and by a large number of people.
BC Rockies Adventures’ future plans are to install serviced trash areas and port-o-potties at the raft take-out points. Admirably, they are demonstrating that the mean to continue to be Watershed Heroes.
Author’s note: If you or someone you know has a watershed hero story you’d like to share, please contact: (250) 341-6898 / firstname.lastname@example.org