The Great Canadian Shoreline cleanup this Saturday will have special significance to Lina Azeez.
The member of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society will be joining volunteers pulling chairs and shopping carts out of Katzie Slough.
But after a summertime paddle of the entire length of the Fraser River, her thoughts will be on the bigger picture.
Azeez joined a group that put a canoe into the headwaters of the Fraser near Mount Robson, where the newborn river is smaller, teal in colour, and as fresh as melting ice.
From July 18 to Aug. 10, the group navigated the entire Fraser, by canoe and raft.
“The Fraser Canyon was incredibly stunning,” she said. “Around every bend was a new perspective.”
Gold rush cabins are still there, “stuck in time,” she said.
But the romance soon faded.
“It was depressing paddling through the Lower Mainland,” she said.
The stretch from Hope to Jericho Beach literally stunk – from the frequent smell of agricultural runoff bringing fertilizer into the river, and the sewage treatment plant in Abbotsford.
And the river is a dump, she said, with boats rusting away along the shoreline – including the giant relic of a B.C. ferry in Mission.
“It’s like a cemetery for where boats go to die.”
There are also abandoned mills and industrial facilities on the shore in various states of decay.
In Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, she said there is a lack of residential or commercial development on the Fraser shore, with few access points for residents.
“We should be celebrating the river more,” she asserts.
The cleanup volunteers will meet on Saturday at Meadowtown Mall parking lot, near Jungle Jac’s play centre at 10 a.m., and work until noon.
They will be among tens of thousands of Canadians working to get rid of shoreline litter, led by the Vancouver Aquarium and World Wildlife Fund.
“We’re trying to raise awareness of Katzie Slough. People think it’s just a ditch, and think they can dump stuff in there,” said Azeez.
“It’s actually a waterway, and not a ditch.”
She said shopping carts and chairs are obviously out of place in the wild, but just as insidious are cigarette butts and Styrofoam, which can be toxic, and six-pack rings that bind wildlife.
Timo Hess of Pitt Meadows is one of the key organizers of the event, and as a member of the Katzie Slough Restoration Project. Last year, members of the group did a similar cleanup event, and stacked a big pile of garbage.
The cleanup is important for the health of the waterway, but also for the message it sends to the public, said Azeez.
“I would like to see us come to the point where we don’t need to do a shoreline cleanup, because everyone already realizes the importance of our waterways.”