Maybe I was naïve in thinking that most who enjoy the great outdoors are mostly respectful of the wilderness and clean up after themselves.
It was engrained in my brain at an early age to pack out what you pack in, but then again it didn’t take much convincing for me since the sight of a stray piece of garbage on a trail makes me cringe. I have to pick it up and pack it back. I know it isn’t mine, but I surely don’t want it out there.
This May long weekend, my family and I packed up to go on a little adventure. We drove towards Terrace from Prince Rupert on Monday May 23, 2011 in hopes of exploring a new place that we could camp this summer. We found the forestry road to Exstew and turned in only to find the gate locked. We peeked around for a key but none was found. We called a friend who is quite knowledgeable about the area and he told us that they close the gate on the May long weekend to keep partiers out because it can get out of hand.
This should have been a red flag, but we decided to head to a forestry site called Red Sands instead. We turned down the road just before Kitskalum Tempo in Terrace and headed down the 26km on a dirt road towards the campsite. We heard that there were sites right on the beach and we were looking forward to setting up the camp chairs, getting a fire roasting, and eating some good old smokies in a bun. We passed about 8 or 9 campers heading home from the weekend along the road all looking pretty satisfied.
As we turned into the grounds and approached the campsites, instead of the lingering smell of morning campfires all I could smell was burning plastic (which produces hydrochloric acid and is toxic to breathe so please do not put anything plastic in your fires!).
Smoke filled the air and it seemed as though every fire pit was still burning, and they were burning leftover garbage. We cruised through the campground and the sights were absolutely revolting. Garbage lined the majority of the sites, tents were piled in a heap and abandoned, broken camp chairs were scattered everywhere and some were half sitting in the fire pits smouldering away.
Broken glass bottles and cans were everywhere, littered toilet paper surrounded each site, paper plates, plastic wrappers, and food remnants piled high. Some was in garbage bags, most of it was not. There were sleeping bags, foam mattresses, even an old rocking chair left behind. Who would leave this place in such a mess?
Every moment that passed my blood boiled more. I have been to a good bush party or two in my time, but I would never have left behind anything, and I certainly wouldn’t have let my friends leave without taking their garbage with them and cleaning up the site. I believe in leaving your campsite better then you found it.
But this was not just a few pieces of trash left on the ground. By the time myself and another concerned citizen (who happened to be an RCMP officer) had made rounds to each site, the back of his pickup truck was over flowing with bags of garbage. He tucked one of the sleeping bags around the mound to keep it from falling out. We weren’t able to fit anymore and there were still about 4 sites that we hadn’t even been to.
So if you were at the campsite that I am talking about on the May long weekend, shame on you. How could you just drive away in the morning and feel okay with yourself?
Did you think that it wasn’t your responsibility to clean up after yourself? Whose responsibility is it then, because I most certainly don’t think it is fair to leave it for someone else after a weekend of reckless partying. If you know your kids were up there partying this weekend ask them how they could have left it in such a disaster.
There was a set of plastic cups that had a black space to write your name on it thrown around one of the worst sites. Sandra, Devin, and Shea were a few of the names that I found on the cups.
I don’t know who they are, but these people had a part in this absolute neglect to take care of a space that is there for everyone to use. And it is really sad that they feel that it is okay to do something so awful, or not to speak up or take responsibility for their actions.
I am sad that we will probably never go to that site again. It really was beautiful once we cleared away what of the mess that we could. My kids played on the sandy beach and dipped their feet in the water and we enjoyed the afternoon. We packed up everything that we had brought with us back into our car and left the campsite better than we had left it.
Thank you James for helping me, I greatly appreciate it.
S. Bosco, Prince Rupert, BC