As warmer weather arrives to the district, so does the increased risk of a person or their pets stepping on used needles.
The melting snow has uncovered an increased number of needles that are being reported to the Fort Frances Bear Clan Patrol, a community safety and wellness group.
Although this certainly isn't a new trend, Fort Frances Bear Clan Patrol project co-ordinator James Eastman said they get increased reports of needles every spring after the snow disappears.
Last year was exceptionally bad for the number of needles left in public spaces and he hopes this year will tell a different story.
Eastman said since January, the Fort Frances Bear Clan Patrol has received about 30 calls, averaging one-two a week.
To combat the problem, Eastman said they promote proper disposal on social media and work with anonymous users to educate them on the ground level, as well.
For people who don't have anything to dispose their used needles in, he recommends putting them into a pop bottle.
“That way they're out of harms way,” he reasoned.
The Fort Frances Bear Clan Patrol currently does clean-ups 24/7 and responds to calls at any time through its Facebook page or by calling 276-2332.
But if a local resident finds a needle on the ground on a weekday, Eastman recommends calling the Northwestern Health Unit right away to have it disposed of.
People who find needles during weekend hours are urged to call the Fort Frances Bear Clan Patrol because the health unit only operates five days a week.
The Fort Frances Bear Clan Patrol currently is working with the Northwestern Health Unit to figure out the best place in town to install needle disposal boxes to combat the ongoing issue.
Eastman assures the boxes will be posted in high-traffic areas, where there is that specific need, once they receive approval to have them installed.
He said the boxes will be properly sealed and secured to keep the community safe.
“They're going to be stainless steal, like an armoured box almost,” he noted.
The Fort Frances Bear Clan Patrol isn't solely focused on needle clean-ups. It also cleans up broken glass, steel shards, knives, Exacto blades, nails, and any other perceived hazards.
“We mainly remove a lot of the hazards that could potentially harm a child or animal or anybody in the community,” Eastman said.
“Safety is number-one on our list.”
The group currently has 25 members and is made up entirely of volunteers. The group first started in 2016 to address varying needs of the community.
Moving forward, the local Bear Clan Patrol is looking to build new partnerships to utilize its services.
“We're hoping to work in partnership with whoever wants to render our services,” said Eastman.
“We can educate on the needle disposal, as well as drug awareness, bullying, and abuse.”
He noted there are other programs the Fort Frances Bear Clan Patrol can offer, adding a majority of their volunteers are trained to administer CPR and naloxone.
Currently, the group is looking to expand its membership base to get more boots on the ground.
“We're always looking for more volunteers,” Eastman remarked.
“The more bodies we have, the more patrols and ground we can cover,” he reasoned.
Those who would like to volunteer can call 276-2332 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org