Salt Spring Island is a beautiful place to live.
If you happen to start taking the greenery for granted, a quick visit to the suburban sprawl and big box store lands of Nanaimo, Victoria or the Lower Mainland is all it takes to remind yourself how lucky you are to live on our island.
Despite all the natural attributes, though, during the past year the island has started to look less like a treasured jewel in a uniquely protected area and more like certain third world countries where civil services are lacking.
It is curious that so many people seem to think the roadside is an okay place to deposit their used coffee cups and beer cans — items that are easily dropped off, without charge, at the recycling depot. Perhaps people think the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is responsible for keeping the shoulder clean, or that island fairies tidy up overnight.
As it turns out, until last year a combination of those two scenarios was sort of in effect. For many years the Salt Spring Lions Club — quietly and without fanfare — participated in the provincial Adopt a Highway program. The Lions implemented the program locally as a fundraiser for youth sports teams, donating funds to the teams in return for them doing the garbage collecting work. Unfortunately, safety and liability concerns mean the ministry now only allows volunteers who are at least 12 years old to be on the road. The Lions had to stop offering the program last spring, which is why litter has noticeably piled up since then.
During the first three weeks of April the Driftwood will run a Greening Salt Spring campaign asking individuals, neighbourhood PODS, nonprofit organizations and businesses to pick up as much as they can so the entire island can be garbage-free in time for Earth Day. We will publish the list of participants and what stretch of road they plan to take on, with final tallies and awards for most garbage collected to be announced at the Earth Day celebration in Centennial Park on April 22.
If initial sessions go well, we encourage participants to commit formally to the Adopt a Highway program for the two-year minimum period.
As well, an ad hoc “local village committee” is spearheading plans to spruce up Ganges on the Earth Day weekend. Many hands will make light work and we hope everyone will step up to help get Salt Spring Island green and clean again.