Coastal Journeys

Side Bay & Keith River Beach Clean-up 2018: A Newbie's Perspective

West Coast Vancouver Island
There’s a couple of ideas I’d like to communicate. I tried brevity, but they [BC Marine Trails] said this isn’t Twitter or Facebook, so here you go.
DSC 0850(1) It was just after the tide of Canada Day activity washed past me that I began to get nervous. July 11 was on the horizon, and e-mail started arriving with trip plans, forms, and a waiver to sign. As I scanned the questions about my paddling experience, gear, and first-aid training, I wondered if I was ready for paddling on the outer coast. More than than that, I worried if I was going to regret heading off to the wilds of Vancouver Island with a group of people I didn’t know.
There’s a faded post-it note figuratively taped to the back of my eye-lids for times like this. I won’t tell you exactly what it says. That’s not the important part anyway. It is there to remind me to stay focused on what I can do. So, that’s what I did.
I prepped my gear. I watched some Youtube videos to check on current gear and techniques for tow rescues. Then I bought a towline. I also bought some flares. I made sure my marine radio was charged.
I bought maps and looked online at maps of the area we were headed to. In case you didn’t know (and really you should), BCMTN has an awesome map tool for members. I checked the weather forecast and checked out wind patterns on SailFlow, another great online resource.
Since we didn’t have a chance to meet up ahead of the trip, I decided to introduce myself to the trip organizer by writing a short e-mail bio of myself and my paddling experience. Having been a trip leader in the past, I know how vital it is to know the people you are taking out onto the water; what their skills and capacities are.
In the end, none of the above was a problem at all. Yes, there was wind and surf, but nothing crazy. I was never put in a position where I felt ‘in over myHappy CrewHappy Crew head’. Yes, I was glad I brought a tow-line, radio, and flares. The towline and radio were both used. The flares weren’t - which is just as well. Yes, I found myself adjusting to new people. I now have new friends, paddling chums, and er .. victims to feed pancakes to. For anyone thinking about signing up, get ready to have a good time, ready to contribute, with all the resources you can muster, and you will have a blast.
(2) When I got home people had generally 2 reactions to my participating in this activity: “Wow, that’s cool. How do you/I do that?” Or, “Why would anyone do that?”
Either one is a really great starting point for talking about BCMTN, our mission, and caring for our coastline in general. I was glad I had spent time reading the posts on the BCMTN site (there’s a lot there!) before the trip.
A lot of people have put in serious time and effort into pulling the organization together — for good reason. There are few places in the world like our coast, and that is neither an exaggeration nor advertising puffery. Everyone and everything that calls this coast home has a lot to lose if we don’t do the work to protect it.
As people asked me questions, I realized that educating people about our coast and pointing them to ways to participate in caring for it is just as important a job as picking up plastic.
(3) One of the ideas I think we need to accept as a society is that the biggest chunk of sustainability is maintenance.
Pristine Beach after clean upPristine Beach after clean upYes, there’s lots of things we need to do to lessen our impact. Some changes are easier to implement than others. Some things are harder to avoid than others. It’s not an Either-Or equation though. It’s a ‘Yes, And’ situation. We also have to do the maintenance work to repair and remediate what we can.
For example, even if a world-wide ban on plastic straws, bottled water, and styrofoam went into effect today, these things would continue to wash up on our beaches, killing fish and birds, for years to come. So yes ban disposal water bottles, and do annual beach clean-ups.
Maintenance is boring. It’s not glamorous. It takes time, energy, money, and commitment — things we do not have unlimited supplies of. But it has to be done.
I wish I had more vacation days to use, but I see there are other activities on the BCMTN site this mainlander may be able to contribute to.
Looking forward to meeting you out on the water - AE
From BC Marine Trails president: The work of a clean up starts well beforehand. We need to have safety plans, fundraising plans, and several meetings to plan out a clean up. It's definitely a team effort from our stewardship committee. This year we received money from Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation which helped pay for the tools and helicopter lift. We also cover travel time which generally comes from Crowdfunders and an annual amount allotted from the BCMT (otherwise comes from members' fees). For most of the volunteers its at least a 1000-km journey. Some of the volunteers donate their travel money to cover very basic costs back to the BCMT. In the case of our stewardship chair, a rock punctured her oil pan leaving her with a huge tow bill. A small amount of this cost was covered by a travel allowance (unfortunately, we don't have big bucks) but at least the tow company dropped the costs. Another aspect of clean ups is a reconnaissance. We can't really send volunteers to remote beaches and say, "Oh, we thought there was plastics here." While the likelihood is high, it's not a given that a beach will be cluttered with debris as was Restless Bight this year. And after the clean up we have to send volunteers back when the helicopter arrives. The super sacks are secured with special knots and either delivered to a barge or to a trucking location. If you wish to help us out a bit our fundraiser goes for a few more days. We really need the help.
  We did engage the Quatsino First Nations this year and also cleaned up an Indian Reserve beach (by permission) which looks pretty good now. All in a day's work.
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