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District students help clean up river shoreline

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Students from several district schools participated in the TD Great Canadian Shoreline clean-up over the past week by collecting garbage from along the banks of the Rainy River.

“It really builds community involvement,” said Susanne Brielmann, project officer of the Rainy River Watershed Program who helped organize the clean-ups for several years.

“And it brings awareness to environmental education—that every little bit makes a difference,” she stressed.

The national conservation initiative allows people across the country to have a positive impact on their local environment.

“I’m glad we’re doing this,” noted one student from Sturgeon Creek School as he picked up trash along the shore in Barwick. “I live here and I want it to be clean.”

Besides Sturgeon Creek, the other schools that participated in the clean-up through the Rainy River Watershed Program were Crossroads School (who cleaned in Devlin), Sturgeon Creek Alternative Program (who cleaned in Morley), and Riverview School (who cleaned at Hannam Park in Rainy River).

In addition, the Rainy River First Nations youth, along with their parents, tidied the shores at Manitou Rapids.

But the students did more than just pick up garbage, they also had one member of each group recording the items they were collecting.

Brielmann said she will compile all the local data, which then will be returned to the Vancouver Aquarium, where all the information from across the country will be tallied up.

Then that information will be submitted to the International Coastal Cleanup for their worldwide statistics and reference.

Although all the local data was not yet compiled, since some of the clean-ups had to be rescheduled to early this week, Brielmann noticed the amount of garbage collected was similar to last year, which was about 300-400 pounds worth.

But while she noted it’s not good seeing the same amount of trash, she indicated not all the garbage was new. Perhaps older trash was being uncovered with the lake levels rising and falling.

And like last year, the same type of garbage seemed to be topping the charts, particularly broken glass and cigarette waste.

Crossroads School last year recorded about 166 broken glass bottles collected. In comparison, Sturgeon Creek School students tallied 259 pieces of broken glass this year.

“I didn’t think there would be that much,” Brielmann remarked, adding students were required to categorize the waste into sections, such as cigarette waste, recreational usage (paper cups, plates, food wrappers), and building materials.

Unique items also were recorded.

“With Sturgeon Creek, they found a horseshoe and toothpaste, while SCAP found a credit card, toothbrush, a Stratton centennial keychain, and pieces of an ice fishing shack,” she noted.

“The kids were really excited about finding the weird things. They kind of started a competition to see who could find the weirdest,” Brielmann continued, saying they seemed to have a good time.

“And they were pretty well-organized, making sure everything was recorded probably . . . . They seemed pretty enthusiastic about it,” Brielmann said.

She also was pleased with the community support offered throughout the different municipalities. She said several of the municipal leaders and other community members helped out with some the clean-ups while other communities offered donations of snacks or assistance with the garbage disposal.

Canadian Tire in Fort Frances also donated gloves for the students to wear while collecting the trash.

“I think it’s something we will plan to do again,” Brielmann said. “The schools were all very anxious to participate . . . and I think it helps with environmental education.

“They see firsthand what happens and maybe they’ll be more keen to put the waste in the garbage instead of on the ground,” she reasoned.

Nationally, more than 40,000 volunteers removed 84,735 kg of garbage during the shoreline clean-up last year.

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