Lakeview Park ‘s chance to shine: volunteers clean up the shore for annual event

Photo by Noor Ibrahim

Aliyan Rabbani (left) picks up cigarette butts off the shore while Finn Whitmee carries garbage and a portable grill he found in the sand.

The sapphire waves bombard Lake Ontario’s  sandy stretch of carpet. The sand is littered with sneaker-shaped sunken grooves. They pave a trail towards a slimy hill of rocks where the silhouettes of two young boys stand out against the sparkling horizon.

On closer look, the silhouettes’ arms are jammed between the rocks as they pull out misshapen objects and place them in a dark bag. Finn Whitmee and Aliyan Rabbani aren’t just basking in the sun, they are taking part in the yearly Shoreline Cleanup.

It was their first time volunteering for Shoreline Clean up. It’s an annual event that took place this fall at Lakeview Park in Oshawa.

About 20 volunteers, including several UOIT students, swarmed the shore of Lake Ontario picking up whatever trash they laid their sights on.

 “It makes me feel good to help others and feel like I’m contributing in some way to the community,” says UOIT student and volunteer Leanne Elliott. “You always walk away with a good feeling.”

The event is a spinoff of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, which started 14 years ago in Vancouver. It takes place near bodies of water across Canada. The organization has done more than 2,000 cleanups in 2015 alone.  This is the third year that UOIT has participated.

It was Melissa Mirowski’s idea to bring Shoreline Cleanup to UOIT. She is the chair of sustainability committee at the university and has coordinated cleanup sites for six years. Last weekend, she handed out rubber gloves before joining the cleanup herself.

(Left to right) Lindsey Carrol, Cameron Smith, Aliaa Elziny, Melissa Mirowski, Tiyaz Sariffodeen, and Jacquelyn Egan all gather around the garbage they have collected from the lake.
(Left to right) Lindsey Carrol, Cameron Smith, Aliaa Elziny, Melissa Mirowski, Tiyaz Sariffodeen, and Jacquelyn Egan all gather around the garbage they have collected from the lake.

Mirowski says about the same number of people volunteer every year. This year wasn’t any different. She is confident the event makes a difference despite the lake’s small size in comparison to all the other polluted regions in Ontario.

“It’s a small event that has a butterfly effect at spreading knowledge and interest,” she says.

According to Mirowski, the number one find every year is cigarette butts. But the lake is also home to bizarre objects.

“We find needles, blankets, grills,” she says.  “The weirdest in the Shoreline Cleanup ever I think was a wedding dress, which is pretty strange. I don’t know who just dumps that in the water.”

Elliott says she once found the drug paraphernalia and dirty band aids littering the shore. Other volunteers found women’s underwear and packets of glow sticks.

According to Mirowski, people are driven to pollute because a mixture of poor education, lack of resources, and laziness.

But UOIT student Tiyaz Sariffodeen has another reason in mind.

I think it’s society’s fault,” he says. “Like we don’t stress enough that it is bad for the environment and how bad it is.”

But Jacquelyn Egan, Mirowski’s assistant, says harsh words don’t work with people who pollute.

“Scolding them would do no good,” she says. “Informing them, I feel, would get better results.”

Egan also encourages to students participate in the yearly event as it opens doors for them. She says it’s a good reason to get outside and meet other members of the community.

“Take the opportunities presented to you,” says Egan.

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