I am a Watershed Watch volunteer and have decided to start a rapid response volunteer team to keep our local shorelines clean.
I’ve joined shoreline cleanups, and I always enjoy doing something positive for the environment. But living in Vancouver’s West End, I’ve seen the worst accumulations of garbage can roll in during big storms, and it’s sometimes months before a cleanup is organized on that beach.
If we could respond quickly enough, it might be possible to get that pollution off the beach before the next high tide pulls it back out to sea. That is what I’m hoping a Watershed Watch rapid response team can tackle: cleaning up the shore on short notice, when it can make the biggest difference.
Of course, storms aren’t the only cause of pollution on our shores. Sometimes big social events leave large amounts of garbage on the beach. Sometimes lost cargo or shipping materials float in on a current.
Here’s how the rapid response team would deal with these situations.
First, volunteers sign up to join the rapid response team, and when a cleanup is needed, they’ll receive an alert via text message. Any member of the team can send out an alert.
Grabbing their cleanup kit, volunteers can join a cleanup effort for any amount of time. It isn’t expected that volunteers attend every cleanup – these events will be short-notice, after all. But even a small number of participants can make a big difference if the timing is right.
The City of Vancouver has offered to provide up to twenty cleanup kits for the first volunteers to sign up for the first rapid response team.
We are starting out with one team, but I am hoping this is a model that could be used all over the province. Volunteers interested in caring for shores outside the City of Vancouver can receive support from Watershed Watch Salmon Society to start their own local team.
If you are interested, please join us for a kick-off cleanup event on Saturday, February 26 at English Bay between 11 am and 1 pm. Those who can’t attend, but would still like to join the rapid response team, sign up here.
Over the last year, we’ve seen that disruptive weather fuelled by climate change can come upon us very suddenly. Establishing networks that can respond to these events quickly will help our communities to build resiliency and enable us to be more responsive and engaged with changes in our local environment.
Georgia Ohm is a Watershed Watch volunteer with 15 years experience working and volunteering for environmental causes. She is looking forward to taking part in restoration activities with Watershed Watch this spring.
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