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Protecting our river valley one sewing machine at a time

​At 88 years old, you'll find Lethbridge resident Alex Onody sticking to the flatter areas of the coulees these days. But no matter what, you can count on him doing his part for Coulee Clean-Up, an initiative coordinated by the Helen Schuler Nature Centre.

 "You name it, I've seen it in our coulees," says Onody. "Coffee cups, bicycle frames, even a couple sewing machines."

Onody started picking up litter along Whoop-up Drive with members of the West Lethbridge Lions Club roughly 12 years ago after moving to the city from his farm in Bow Island. His wife Irene will drop him off and pick him up a few hours later, with bags and bags of trash collected and an2020-10-02 180119.jpg enduring smile on his face.

"Not everyone will notice the work and hours I put in, but the joy it brings me makes it all worthwhile."

He's admittedly slowed down a bit in the past few years, but that doesn't stop him from doing his part. "When I was farming I always took pride in having a clean yard, nowadays the coulees are my back yard and I want them to look as good as possible. Plus I can't just sit on the chesterfield all day long!"

Onody collects an average of 15 bags of trash each year, but his record was a staggering 43 bags in 2017.

Coulee Clean-Up is a made-in-Lethbridge conservation program designed to preserve and protect Lethbridge's river valley environment by removing garbage and debris from natural areas. Helen Schuler Nature Centre works with the City's Parks department to collect the garbage bags and manage disposal.

"Thanks to the participation of hundreds of volunteers, conservation projects like Coulee Clean-Up make a significant difference in keeping our river valley healthy and looking its best," says Curtis Goodman, Resource Development Coordinator, Helen Schuler Nature Centre. "Lethbridge is fortunate to have an engaged community of conservation-minded volunteers who care about our watershed."

During the 12-year history of Coulee Clean-Up, an average of 709 volunteers take to cleaning 108 predefined areas. In 2021, even with COVID-19, the program anticipates approximately 625 volunteers that'll cover all 108 areas. Over 65% of those volunteers indicated they've never taken part in the program before.

With stewards like Alex, and the surge of new volunteers we had this year, the future of Coulee Clean-Up and our river valley is in good hands. These volunteers can't be thanked enough for their commitment to our community, and their tremendous civic pride.

For more information on Coulee Clean-Up and other community conservation projects visit: