June 5 marks World Environment Day and a fitting time for Lethbridge to celebrate the community's new designation as a Clean Shoreline Community. For the past 11 years, Lethbridge residents have pitched in to help pick up trash in the coulees and along the river banks and these efforts have now garnered national recognition. The City of Lethbridge is just one of five cities to be designated a Clean Shoreline Community with the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, a conservation program by Ocean Wise and WWF-Canada.
The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is a national conservation program that provides Canadians the opportunity to take action in their communities wherever water meets land, one bit of trash at a time. Other Clean Shoreline Communities include Vancouver, West Vancouver, Calgary, and Hamilton.
"It might seem odd to call Lethbridge a Clean Shoreline Community given we aren't anywhere near the ocean but we know that anything we put in our rivers can end up in the ocean as well," says Coreen Putman, Manager at the Helen Schuler Nature Centre. "We've been doing great things here in Lethbridge for many years to protect the Oldman River and keep the shorelines clean and this designation will help us continue to grow our local conservation programs."
By becoming a Clean Shoreline Community, the City of Lethbridge will work collaboratively with Ocean Wise and WWF-Canada to raise awareness of the impacts of shoreline litter and inspire residents to keep all shorelines free of litter.
The Helen Schuler Nature Centre has helped organize 30 Shoreline Cleanups since 2014. Through this program, volunteers go out in pairs and track every item of trash picked up. Last year, 3,526 items of trash were collected over 11 km of river shoreline covered. Nearly 20,000 items have been collected since the program's inception – 43 per cent of which are cigarette butts, representing a real concern for wildlife and the potential for wildfires.
"We know that every bit of trash in the coulees is a threat to our river and our wildlife which is why we focus on several conservation programs," says Putman. "Another very successful initiative is our Coulee Cleanup program which helps keep items from every reaching the river banks in the first place."
Through the 2018 Coulee Cleanup, volunteers removed 447 bags of trash and since the program began, 11 years ago, there have been 4,116 bags of trashed removed from the river valley. So far in 2019, 1640 volunteers have participated, helping to remove 455 bags of garbage from 96 natural areas throughout Lethbridge.
"The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is about protecting all shorelines from the damaging effects of litter" says Kate Le Souef, National Program Manager of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. "This is not an issue that impacts only coastal communities. This is an issue that impacts everyone. Lethbridge is a strong example of a community making movement on conservation efforts, and we're thrilled to welcome them as our newest Clean Shoreline Community."
The Nature Centre recorded 1,875 participants taking part in conservation programs last year helping to maintain 4,000 acres of river valley. These programs include 105 Coulee Cleanup locations, four Shoreline Cleanup locations, four Weed Pull sites and one Doggie Doo Doo Cleanup site.
"The Nature Centre will support clean-ups taking place in our community – we encourage anyone wanting to make a difference to contact us," says Curtis Goodman, Resource Development Coordinator at Helen Schuler Nature Centre and coordinator of Lethbridge's river valley conservation projects. "We thank all volunteers who help to look after our wonderful river valley!"
A special thank you goes out to the river valley conservation project sponsors that support the work of volunteers and Lethbridge's Clean Shoreline Community designation: Pratt & Whitney Canada, Alberta Conservation Association, Alberta Eco-Trust Foundation, Oldman Watershed Council, B93, Country 95, and the Friends of the Helen Schuler Nature Centre Society.
To register to volunteer with any of the conservation programs through the Helen Schuler Nature Centre, visit www.lethbridge.ca/cleanshoreline.
Curtis Goodman, Resource Development Coordinator, Helen Schuler Nature Centre
City of Lethbridge