This content was not sponsored in any way. We chose to be a part of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup at Ottawa’s Petrie Island. All opinions are our own.
A shoreline cleanup is always a good thing, especially after your community has suffered one of its worst floods in years.
This past spring, thanks in part to the overwhelming amount of rainfall we received in the National Capital Region, the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau suffered from extreme flooding, when the waters of the Gatineau and Ottawa Rivers overflowed their banks.
While areas of Gatineau bore the brunt of the flooding, many residents who live along the Ottawa River had to battle rising water levels as well.
Parks and beaches along the Ottawa River felt the devastating effects of this flooding, including Ottawa’s Petrie Island.
During some of the worst of the flooding, we visited Petrie Island, or rather, we tried to visit Petrie Island. Instead we were faced with no way onto the island. Petrie Island was almost completely submerged under Ottawa River waters, at the height of the flooding.
Here is a photo we took during the flooding. See that hydro pole? There is a road beside it, submerged under the water.
Many residents of Ottawa were concerned that the flooding would destroy Petrie Island, or at the very least, the beaches of the island that are popular with residents in the summer.
What we didn’t understand at the time was that Petrie Island experiences flooding, to some extent, every year. It’s a natural part of the life cycle of this area. This year’s flooding was exceptional but, by no means unusual.
While the flooding water left its mark on Petrie Island, so did the trash left behind in the receding waters’ wake.
Already set to roll into Ottawa in their AquaVan 150, in celebrations of Canada 150, the folks from the Vancouver Aquarium, Ocean Wise, and the World Wildlife Federation, realized there was a need to bring focus to Petrie Island, and so they helped to organize a Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, alongside Ottawa residents.
When we were asked if we would like to help out with this shoreline cleanup, of course we said yes! Petrie Island is a beloved park with great beaches that many Ottawa residents love to spend time at on a hot summer’s day.
Organizers did a fabulous job on location, setting up a registration tent, a Loblaws food tent (which provided helpers with great sandwiches, fruits, snacks, and drinks), and a Vancouver Aquarium tent where they displayed various ocean artifacts for visitors to look at, and interact with.
Organizers, including a local group known as “Friends of Petrie Island” provided instructions for the cleanup, including equipment needed such as gloves and collection bags. We were even given a checklist so that we could keep track of the items of garbage we found along the way.
As we started the cleanup, I looked around me to see such beauty.
Kayakers enjoying a sunny Saturday morning out on the water.
Gentle breezes, birds chirping, turtles basking in the warm sun.
Petrie Island is an outdoor paradise for nature lovers.
Except, as we found, when we looked closely.
So much garbage.
In the span of an hour and a half, our group collected 32 bags of trash, and 16 bags of recyclable items, totaling 186.25 kilograms (410lbs) of garbage!
You can see some of the trash that was found, in the above photo. Larger objects included tires, metal piping, and even a satellite dish! X-Man located our biggest find – a huge piece of chicken wire – a potentially deadly piece of trash for the wildlife that make Petrie Island their home.
One of the displays, brought by the Vancouver Aquarium, illustrated just how deadly our trash can be for birds and other wildlife.
The photo below is rather graphic. It shows the carcass of a dead bird, and what was found in the belly of the dead bird.
Just look at all those “everyday” plastic items that we all use – items that some of us carelessly throw out the windows of our cars, toss at the side of the road, or leave behind at the beach when we are finished our day of fun.
When we don’t recycle, or throw trash in its proper place, we leave it behind for wildlife to find. Thinking they have found a food item, many birds and other animals will eat all kinds of dangerous pieces of trash.
What frightened us the most was the sheer number of small plastic “bits and ‘pieces” we found along the Petrie Island shoreline, and in the beautiful marshy areas on the island.
I dare you to look down, and look closely, next time you are out for a walk at your local park, beach, or conservation area. You won’t believe the number of small plastic pieces you notice.
Our short time helping Vancouver Aquarium/Ocean Wise organizers clean up Petrie Island really opened our eyes to the need to do our own shoreline cleanups whenever we are out for hikes in the wonderful conservation areas and beaches around Ottawa.
Next time we head out, we have already pledged to bring our own collection bags and clean up!
For more information on how you can participate in a cleanup along your own shoreline, visit The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.