After a year of pitching the idea, the local Chamber of Commerce finally convinced Expedia to highlight Castlegar online as one of BC’s most diverse recreational communities. The chamber is hoping to showcase Castlegar as a four season destination, and is excited about all the free advertising this endorsement will bring to the area.
This is all well and good for the tourism industry, but what will people see when they choose us as their destination? Serene lakes and rivers, prime fishing, beautiful scenery and amazing backcountry or empty beer cans, old plastic bags and wads of use fishing line?
For years the government and environmental groups have spent countless dollars trying to get us to be more responsible with our environment. Yet, we continue to treat our natural and urban settings like garbage cans, with no regard to the wildlife and the people who will also be using it.
Fish, birds and small mammals can be subjected to serious harm if they come in contact with our disposable world. Over 180 species have been documented to ingest plastic debris which includes fish line, plastic rings and bags.
Aluminum cans with leftover soda or beer can turn into razor sharp traps. Skunks can get yogurt containers stuck on their heads and raccoons have been found with beer cans stuck to their paws. Fishing gear and other plastics often get caught in the gills of fish which causes a slow, painful death.
For those of us who enjoy the outdoors and the countless tourists who will make the trip to recreate here, this is a big problem. No one wants to look at the views from the Seven Summit trails or from their favourite fishing hole and have it tainted by the garbage of last weekend’s visitors. It is even more disconcerting to clean up a mess just to find twice as much the following weekend.
In town, there are garbage cans almost everywhere you look so there should be no excuse for just dropping your trash on the ground. As you start to get farther away from urban areas, garbage cans become less common, which means whatever you pack in you has to be packed out.
Leave no Trace Canada is a website dedicated to helping us minimize human impact in natural settings. Ideally, we will use and enjoy the wilderness and leave the space exactly the way it was before we entered it. The website offers tools and tricks on how to properly prepare for outdoor recreation and how to reduce harm to wildlife and their surroundings.
Some simple ways to reduce the amount of garbage you create is to pre-plan at home. Reduce packaging by removing extra wrapping and sealing items in Ziploc bags, for example. Carrying loose garbage bags in your vehicle or backpack is also an easy way to collect what you may normally leave behind.
We challenge you to overcome your laziness and leave no trace. Let’s be responsible for our environment by making the West Kootenay beautiful and safe for all who call it home and all who want to enjoy what we may take for granted. Whether you do it to promote tourism or because you feel it’s your civic duty, turn your mind to keeping your space clean … collectively, we can make the whole place sparkle.