Britannia Beach. Yes, we Ottawans have a beautiful beach. Having recently returned from England, I often feel a compulsion to run down to the beach just to see it there. It’s the kind of place you travel to other places to see. This past August, my husband and I were married on the shores of the Ottawa River with grey herring gulls flying overhead. It was a perfect day.
After the whole wedding etc, I realized I wanted to give back to the place that gave me so much. Supporting Nature Canada in their Clean-up Ottawa enterprise was just the right thing. In the early hours of the morning, my co-conspirator Sarah and I embarked on our mission. Loaded with flags (for easy viewing), pens, chairs, forms, pamphlets and bags, we were set to make the best of a chilly day and it’s impending forecast of 2 mm of rain. (It should be duly noted that this was a blatant lie. Torrential downpour the likes of the Amazon would have been a more appropriate prediction.)
Arriving at the beach, I felt a sense of “Yes! We are doing SOMETHING!” It’s a funny feeling. When you’re growing up you think: I have to fix the world. Then you travel and you realize: the world is too big, I can’t fix it. I’ve soon realized that although we inhabit the same planet, we don’t inhabit the same worlds. Each effort has a reciprocating effect on someone somewhere and if you’ve made a positive effort, then you’ve improved life in that world.
The Lac Deschenes is a crucial meeting of worlds between urban Ottawa and birdlife. Not just Canadian birds (for they have neither citizen privileges nor the right to vote) but international ones too; birds that use the Ottawa River as their navigational highway. This shared space functions not just as a wedding venue, summer hotspot and photographer haven, but as a 365-day-a-year home. Thus, the gathering of dedicated volunteers that showed up on Saturday was indeed helping change worlds. Locals, first-time volunteers, families and one unstoppable vegan didn’t even blink at the prospect of cleaning up in the chill. Special mention should go to the high school students that came out to get their hours: there are a million and one ways to get your hours so we were grateful that they picked our event to make that happen. Well done!
Most litter collected was in the form of pop bottles, cans, waste paper, cigarette butts and knick-knacks. (To whoever is dumping paint cans in the forest… really?) Nobody balked at getting right under trees to the lower prickly branches where litter gets trapped, or checking each individual fence railings, or excavating under trees. One dedicated family braved the slurpy mud to pull things out of the mire. Torrential rain? Sheets of cascading freezing rain? No problem. We’ve got this.
Although it might seem futile to spend energy clearing small items, it’s exactly what’s needed to prevent birds from eating rubbish. What we see as insignificant, they can interpret as food. In total our 32 volunteers collected 15 full garbage bags and 7 recycling bags. 22 bags of litter that won’t be underfoot when beach season starts next year. 22 bags of litter that won’t travel the Canada Goose digestive system. 22 bags worth of human effort to make the world a better place.
Despite the rain.
We would like to thank co-organizer of this event, Meztly Abrego for this post. Meztly grew up in the Ottawa area and is a teacher.