MANITOULIN—Honora Bay’s Justin Tilson is an avid cyclist and environmental activist who regularly travels the Island’s highways and byways, the relatively sedate pace allowing him to truly enjoy the view—but riding down the road a couple of years ago after the snow had left that view was unsettling, due to the amount of garbage and litter that was strewn in the ditches. He decided to do something about it.
“There were really three things that led me to organize the roadside cleanup,” said Mr. Tilson. “The first was the influence of a scout leader who used to take us outside to pickup garbage on the side of the road. The second was that I ride my bike a lot and I was amazed at the amount of garbage that people throw out on the road and the third was the number of pictures that I see of animals choking on trash that I see online every day.”
Mr. Tilson organized his first cleanup last year, but it was very much a last minute thing and the challenge of navigating the Ministry of Transportation regulatory maze was an unexpected roadblock.
“The problem is that the way we wanted to set things up didn’t fall into the normal way they do these things,” recalled Mr. Tilson. “There are a number of stipulations they have for safety guidelines that we have to follow if they are granting the permits to do the work.”
As a consequence, Mr. Tilson has been working on setting up team leaders and acquiring the necessary safety equipment to put the cleanup in place.
Those guidelines include no parking on the side of the road, no youth under the age of 12 and conducting the cleanup on only one side of the road at a time.
“Team leaders will have safety vests for the volunteers,” he said.
As the cleanup progresses, the volunteers are urged to either bring the filled bags with them when they leave or to leave them on the shoulder portion of the road and call in the location.
“I will be doing a sweep of the Island afterward to pick up the bags,” said Mr. Tilson.
Mr. Tilson puts his money where his ideals lie, going largely out of pocket to buy the necessary safety vests. “I received a $100 donation from Ryan Hutchinson because he liked what I am doing and that went a long way,” he said. “The vests aren’t very expensive.” Rather than providing donations for the effort, those who want to contribute to the effort can buy more safety vests, suggests Mr. Tilson.
An internet professional, Mr. Tilson has also set up a simple link to reach a Facebook page where volunteers can get more information. That link is tidyup.com.
The Island-wide cleanup was originally planned to be a one-day affair, taking place on May 5, but after scouting out his volunteer team leaders Mr. Tilson discovered a number of complementary events taking place around the same time. “NEMI has something in the works for May 4 and Manitowaning is coming together on May 6 in the evening,” he said. “It’s best to check the Facebook page (tidyup.com) to see the details on what is happening specific to your community.”
The Northeast Town is conducting its seventh annual Litter Blitz on Saturday, May 4 from 11 am to 1 pm. Volunteers will meet at the Rendezvous Pavilion for 11 am, garbage bags and gloves will be provided. A barbecue will held following the blitz and student volunteer hours are available.