It’ll be all hands on deck for the 2021 Kennedy Flats and Ha’uukmin Tribal Park backroads clean up this Sunday, Oct. 17.
Hosted by Central Westcoast Forest Society (CWFS) in partnership with Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks, the family-friendly outdoor event kicks off at 10 a.m. at the Junction with registration, plus coffee and treats courtesy of Zoe’s Bakery (BYO mug).
“Our employees have been a doing a scout out of garbage, and they were actually impressed. They thought it was going to be a lot worse than it was. We definitely have a lot of pins and we are going down a lot of furrows and the garbage is really spread out everywhere and there will be a lot of clean up to do, but it wasn’t this devastating amount we were expecting,” said CWFS communications and outreach co-ordinator Sarita Mielke.
At the beginning of August, 18-year-old Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation (TFN) Timmy Masso made headlines when he set up a blockade on the West Main Forest Service Road in attempt to curtail the environmental destruction irresponsible campers were causing in TFN territory.
Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks guardian Terry Dorward said Masso’s blockade brought the issue to the forefront.
“We’ve been trying to address the issue for the last couple years. There are so many different stakeholders, it’s hard to get everyone in the same room. It’s a regional issue that requires a regional solution,” Dorward told the Westerly.
“Clean up is one issue, but forest fires are also a real threat. And, we also have people squatting and building (illegal structures) within our territory. There is also illegal cedar harvesting and grow ops. One solution is putting up a gate and letting only locals have a key,” he said.
The Kennedy Flats / Ha’uukmin Tribal Park falls within the jurisdiction of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD), but Ucluelet RCMP and Ucluelet Ambulance Service are responsible for emergency calls and patrols of the area. Seasonal staff working in Tofino and Ucluelet also rely on West Main for housing.
Mielke says CWFS tries to be neutral when it comes to backroads usage, but thinks more education is needed on how to limit human impact on the local environment.
“Hopefully we won’t have it taken away from us due to all the dumping,” she said.
CWFS has been leading backroads clean ups on and off since 1995. During the last backroads clean in March 2021, volunteers hauled out 3,040kg of debris. Last year’s annual October clean up amassed about 19,000kg of trash in just one day, including broke down cars, a trailer and a derelict canoe.
“Obviously having to do clean ups every year isn’t a good thing, but we do really appreciate the community support we get and it’s a really great way to show care and respect for a place that we love. We hope that we keep building that and it becomes more of a celebration and less of a clean up in years to come,” said Mielke.
Dorward said the collaboration with locals is great and the relationships are getting bigger.
“They really see the value in protecting the Tribal Park. Access for locals is a consideration and those that go there do show respect,” he said.
The 2021 backroads clean up ends at 2:30 p.m. at the West Coast Landfill for trash tipping, prizes and a BBQ hosted by West Coast Salty Buns. Prizes will be awarded for weirdest and most wonderful finds.