“Collectively we can make a huge difference by making a sweep of our city and cleaning it up together.” This is the message to Burlington residents each year by our local environmental awareness organization, BurlingtonGreen.
In 2013, residents came together like never before to lend a hand in the annual Clean Up Green Up event to celebrate Earth Day. A record number of more than 13,000 people signed up to ‘sweep’ the streets and green areas of our city — that is almost 5,000 more than the year before!
This year, before we joined our neighbourhood cleanup effort, my family also participated in a special Green Up stewardship project made possible by the Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund. This fund offers grants to grassroots community groups for activities such as cleaning up a beach or shoreline, restoring a wetland, or creating a coastal or riverside trail. We joined one hundred other participants at Burlington’s Beachway Park to help improve the coastal environment of Lake Ontario. For this project, BurlingtonGreen partnered with the city and Conservation Halton to obtain a grant of nearly $25,000 from the fund.
When we arrived, the organizers were busy sorting volunteers into numbered groups. As we signed in, we were offered fresh baked chocolate chip cookies baked by some of the BurlingtonGreen members (they were so good!).
The morning was incredibly cold and windy but everyone bundled up warmly and went to work.
Some groups collected litter while others removed invasive species and still others planted trees and shrubs. Our group was dedicated to planting plugs of native plants and grasses along the edge of the beach.
Up and down the waterfront, families with yellow garbage bags collected trash. It will pay off in the summer as beach goers soak up the sun without having to worry about stepping on something nasty.
After lining the beach with a hundred or so grass plugs, we switched gears to planting trees. It’s the end of April, but we had to dress the kids in their snowsuits to keep them warm!
We eventually said goodbye to the new friends we had made at the beach and headed home to join the community clean up effort along East Sheldon Creek in our own back yard.
Our neighbourhood group was just one of dozens that had fanned out across the city this day — each one organized by someone who wanted to make a difference in their community. Earlier in the week, many groups from schools, churches and businesses had already made their own trash sweeps as part of this event. All registered groups were provided with trash bags, recycling bags and gloves to aid their effort.
By the time we returned from the beach, there was not one piece of trash left for us to pickup — our neighbours had been quick and thorough. But a team from Field and Stream Rescue remained busy planting some new trees along the creek.
With help from a volunteer, Jr Burlington inserted Dogwood cuttings into the ground along the retention pond.
Before long, it was time for the annual Eco Celebration at Burlington City Hall to begin. This is a Thank You BBQ for Earth Day volunteers from across the city and a chance to mingle with neighbours, view various eco-displays and participate in activities for children.
Turtle Jack’s has been a long time supporter of this event, cooking up their giant hamburgers for everyone who volunteers as part of the city-wide clean up crew.
Inside City Hall, kids could participate in a Waste Sort Challenge where they had to correctly determine which bin various pieces of waste should go in. Jr Burlington impressed the activity leader when he suggested that, rather than throwing two cans in the recycling bin, he would reuse them to make a toy telephone.
To cap off the celebration, Mayor Rick Goldring welcomed Ontario environment minister Jim Bradley who took a few minutes to thank all the volunteers and the BurlingtonGreen organization. “Your hard work and dedication has transformed another Ontario shoreline into a place of pride for the community,” Minister Bradley said. “Grassroots efforts like this ensure that the people of Ontario continue to enjoy lakes that are drinkable, swimmable and fishable.”
Up next from BurlingtonGreen is the second of five movies in their 2013 Eco Film Festival. On May 9th, The Cove is presented at the Burlington Central Library at 6:30pm. This series provides a valuable opportunity for audiences to learn about global environmental issues by watching award winning documentaries and then sharing ideas on how the issues can be addressed locally.
Each event includes a film presentation, complimentary refreshments, a free eco-prize raffle and engaging audience discussion on how global issues can be tackled locally.