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County Council tackles trash problem on the James A. Gifford Causeway


September 01, 2017




At the August 23 Peterborough County Council meeting, delegate Brad Sinclair of Ennismore brought forward a presentation on the littering problem along the James A. Gifford Causeway to council members.

The issue came to Sinclair’s attention at the beginning of August while he was exploring Chemong Lake in a recently purchased kayak. What the realtor and ex-Selwyn firefighter discovered was garbage  strewn along the causeway’s rocky  banks.  Sinclair photographed numerous Styrofoam worm containers, plastic bags, empty water bottles and food containers and even an adult diaper, which he then posted to his Facebook page.

Sinclair tagged (mentioned) three Selwyn council member and the post received a lot of attention and comments from the community; so much so that the media, as far away as Toronto, picked up the story.

About a week later, Cody and Ken Orgill took it upon themselves to clean up the trash. They spent four hours cleaning  up a pick-up truck load of garbage only to see litter on and around the causeway again within forty-eight hours.

During his presentation, Sinclair made several suggestions on how to move forward on the trash issue. They included installing garbage bins and portable toilets, hiring student or seasonal workers to clean up and having by-law staff attend the causeway to hand out fines to litterers.

The issue of garbage along the causeway is not new. Several years ago the County hired a summer staff person to patrol the causeway and pick up trash. However, due to issues with traffic and the rocky, uneven shoreline, the position was deemed unsafe. Tara Stephen, Manager of Waste Management with the County of Peterborough said that “by having a staff member there showed a perception that the County encouraged people to use the causeway for fishing, which isn’t the case.”

On Wednesday morning, County Council Member and Deputy Mayor of Selwyn Township, Sherry Senis, put a motion forward to have staff meet with stakeholders -including the County, Selwyn Township and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry- to come up with a solution.

“It’s a shame that people are not being respectful of our environment,” Deputy Mayor Senis said. “It’s not clear though that the litter that is happening there is just from people that are fishing. There could be litter that’s pulled in from the lake and it could be from people throwing it out their vehicle windows.

“Litter begets litter though.”

Senis added it’s not safe for County staff to walk the causeway’s uneven terrain and collect trash. She said it stands to reason it “might not be safe for people who are trying to fish down there,” which is something council should consider.

The issue of educating the public about littering along the causeway was also brought up, but was opposed by Bev Matthews, Mayor of the Municipality of Trent Lakes. “The County needs to punish, not educate,” said Matthews. She pointed out how in her township, staff search for clues in illegally-dumped garbage in order to determine who should be fined.

Councillor Karl Moher, Douro-Dummer Deputy Mayor, suggested the discussion include the Peterborough-based Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. “Perhaps they would have some input that could be valuable.”

“Let’s get on with this. It’s one of the most obnoxious stories of human behaviour I think the county has ever dealt with. It’s unbelievable,” said J. Murray Jones, County Councillor and Douro-Dummer Mayor.

Deputy Mayor Senis, who made the motion at County Council said “many Councilors weighed in on the issue, and I was happy that County Council supported the motion unanimously.”

Senis also said that “this type of conduct is bad for the carbon footprint and the pollution of our lake. It is a shame that people are being disrespectful of our environment.”

The motion will have to have final approval at the next County Council meeting. Following approval, County Council directed staff to prepare a report for “as soon as possible” after the meeting of the various stakeholders.