More than 105 volunteers harvest garbage from Island ditches

Manitoulin Streams’ Sue Meert and Maddie Wagar were no slouches when it came to bringing in the haul.

MANITOULIN – Across Manitoulin Island hardy groups of determined volunteers of all ages scoured the sides of the highways and byways clear of the detritus accumulated over the winter. Together those 105-plus volunteers hauled up more than 181 bags of refuse from the ditches, helping to keep our beloved Island roadways clean.

While volunteerism is often called its own reward, this year’s volunteers could register for some great Manitoulin Streams prizes for being part of the Island-wide Garbage Cleanup project.

Each of the winners will be contacted to find out what colour of Manitoulin Streams hat they would like and each will receive a $20 Ramakko’s Source for Adventure gift certificate.

The winners are Ruby Jane Seabrook, Roz Seabrook, Leslie Fields, Hailey Cole and Sheila Panton.

“There were a lot of weird things found in the ditches,” said Manitoulin Streams project co-ordinator Seija Deschenes. “We found tires, both on and off rims, mufflers, buckets, lots of Styrofoam and other building materials, tons of that, and probably the weirdest thing of all was a pair of pants that were found at Providence Bay beach.”

Ms. Deschenes speculated that the home renovations that took place during the pandemic might be behind the rise of construction materials showing up on the roadsides.

“People need to be reminded to tie down their load when they are headed to the landfill,” said Ms. Deschenes, whose family took on cleaning the roadsides between Little Current and its landfill transfer station. “A lot of this looks like it just blew out of the back of trucks headed to the dump. It could be just a need for more education letting people to take a little bit of extra care in tying things down.”

Of considerable concern to Ms. Deschenes is the sheer volume of plastics that are being found along Island roadsides—pop bottles, water bottles and a host of single-use plastics. “We have a lot of plastic showing up in our waterways,” she said. “It is so important. There is a lot of wind on Manitoulin and things are eventually blown into the water.”

But it isn’t just wind-blown items that wind up in the water. “On Goat Island, in the water, there was a microwave oven,” she said. “I couldn’t believe that!”

Another disturbing thing she noticed is the amount of discarded alcohol containers, both cans and bottles. “Some have been there for years, but others are more recent,” she said. “You feel a crunch underfoot in the grass and you find a can that has obviously been there for a long time. I just hope those blew out of the back of someone’s truck and not from drinking and driving. Maybe it’s time for a few more RIDE stops.”

But the good news story can be seen all along the sides of Island roads.

“This has been a wonderful success,” said Ms. Deschenes. “There were so many people who came out from all over the Island—a lot of them finding a quality activity to do with their children during the lockdown. We are thinking about doing this again next year.”