Show Your Love for the Fraser River: Join the New West Shoreline Cleanup

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup™ is an annual event that helps keep our oceans, rivers, and lakes healthy. People from all across Canada join in to remove the human-made litter and garbage that was either dumped or accidently deposited into our water systems.

This year on Sunday, Sept 23, the South Dyke Road Riverfront Cleanup—to register, click on the link— will launch the beginning of New Westminster’s RiverFest, an art and environmental festival inspired by the Fraser River.

The Cleanup is a family friendly event, open to everyone who welcomes taking care of our shoreline. And this year, participants can show their love for the shoreline in a few different ways.

Previously Non-Recyclable Items

Throughout Canada, waste from cigarettes remains the top cleanup item collected. Last year approximately 350,000 were removed from our shorelines. This year—for the first time—all cigarette butts picked up from the New West cleanup will be sent to TerraCycle, a company that specializes in recycling previously non-recyclable items, such as pens, inkjet cartridges, and Tassimo coffee, tea, espresso, milk and hot chocolate T Discs.

In New Westminster, Nestlé candy wrappers and empty containers from Garnier® personal care and beauty products can be taken directly to London Drugs. TerraCycle Canada will then recycle these items into park benches, waste bins and more!

Styrofoam, another previously non-recycled item, was also one of the top items collected at last year’s cleanup. This year, with the launch of Styrofoam collection at the New Westminster Recycling Depot, other recyclable items collected during the cleanup, including Styrofoam and paint cans, will be picked up by the City Of New Westminster for recycling.

Removing litter, however, is just one way that participants can show their love for our shoreline.

Invasive Plant Pull

Kids and adults can also take part in an invasive plant pull of non-toxic plants.

This year participants can take part in removing holly, Lamium, morning glory, purple loosestrife, Scotch broom, and another patch of English ivy—check out the photo from last year’s plant pull.

Plants are considered invasive for a few reasons. One reason is because people or animals have brought them from their original natural habitat to a different one. These non-native plants become invasive depending on their adaptability—how quickly they can grow and multiply in the new habitat.

When non-native plants grow quickly, they take over and force native plants from their home. They rob them of their space, sunlight, water, and nutrients. Over time, these invasive plants change and damage the conditions of the natural habitat. For these reasons, invasive plants are carefully removed to not spread their seeds or other plant parts that can regrow from special habitats like—our Fraser River shoreline.*(Definition from For Peat’s Sake: The Story of Burns Bog, available at the NWPL)

For those of us who love the taste of blackberries, it can be hard to learn that the Himalayan blackberry is considered an invasive plant (Invasive Species Council of British Columbia). It’s dense thicket and thorny stems can be hazardous to humans and animals alike. The plant can also out-compete native shrubs with deep roots that can provide stability along the shoreline. To minimize the hazard of the plant’s long shoots, Jennifer Lukianchuk, Environmental Coordinator from the City of New Westminster, and Cindy Sale, Communication and Events Coordinator from the Fraser River Discovery Centre, are going to show their love for the shoreline by putting on safety equipment to prune off some of the more exposed shoots.

South Dyke Road Riverfront Cleanup and Invasive Plant Pull

The Shoreline Cleanup starts from 9:30 AM at the pier at Suzuki Street and S Dyke Road in Queensborough, New Westminster. Participants under 19 are welcome but must attend with their parent or guardian or bring the signed waiver with them. Waivers can be printed off the website.

Please bring boots that can get muddy and wear pants to protect yourself from the shrubs that grow nearby. Bring either a pen to help with data collection or tongs (some will be supplied by the City) to pick up litter, and snacks and water for yourself.

The South Dyke Road Riverfront Cleanup is organized by New Westminster Environmental Partners (NWEP) in partnership with the City of New Westminster and Fraser River Discover Centre.

Family-friendly Pattullo rally planned at TransLink open house June 23

Pattullo rally poster
Pattullo rally poster

Opinion polling in New Westminster is pretty clear: New Westminster does not want a six-lane replacement to the Pattullo Bridge. TransLink’s public consultation in our community, however, has assumed six lanes as a given. Clearly, New West and TransLink are not seeing eye to eye.

New Westminsterites concerned about air quality, livability, pedestrian safety and environmental impacts of increasing traffic through our already congested city have organized a rally for the whole family in response to TransLink’s Pattullo Bridge Open House at Sapperton Pensioner’s Hall this Saturday, June 23. Supporters include New Westminster school trustees Jonina Campbell and David Phelan, the Surrey Citizens Transportation Initiative and New Westminster Environmental Partners.

Rally organizers believe TransLink’s public consultation process was unfair and that building a bigger Pattullo goes against TransLink’s own transportation strategy, which centres on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging development of communities designed for transit, cycling and walking. In previous open houses, TransLink has asked for public input on specific questions about planning details related to location and connections for a six-lane bridge, not whether a six-lane bridge is the right solution for our communities.

In the invitation to the event, organizers invite parents to bring their kids, bicycles and bubble-blowers, and participants are asked to keep messages “constructive, welcoming and focused on the issues.” Signs prepared for the event will include slogans like, “No 6-Lane Bridge,” to specifically reference TransLink’s current plans and “Give Surrey Transit Now!,” which is in keeping with their Transport 2040 Goals. Others will include: “Stop Driving Climate Change,” “A Good Planet is Hard to Find,” “Less Traffic=Safer Streets,” “TransLink: Put Our $ Where Our Public Transit Should Be,” “Plan Past Peak Oil: It’s Time to Think outside the Barrel” “Think Lions Gate”, “TransLink: We Need to Talk!” and “Stop Pushing Car Dependency.”

The rally will begin in Sapperton Park, rain or shine, at 9:30am to walk to the TransLink open house together with signs and letters to the TransLink Board. There will also be activities for children during the brief event.

Volunteers needed to help remove invasive plants from Hume Park this Saturday

In my ignorant pre-gardening days, I extended my politically correct Canadian sensitivity training to the world of flora and fauna. I admired the spunk of dandelions growing in the crack between the sidewalk and the curb, the beauty of the morning glories twining in the hedge and the hardiness of blackberry bushes crowding parked cars in the back lane. I felt guilty pulling weeds. After all, didn’t they have just as much right to life as any other plant?

Then I planted mint in my garden. I love mint, so I was pleased to see how fast it grew! Until it began to take over. Along with the dandelions and morning glory. Thankfully, we have no blackberries!

So, now I know, not every plant that can grow in a place should grow there.

A couple of weeks ago, on April 14, the City of New Westminster began work with a crew of volunteers to help re-habitat Lower Hume Park by replacing invasive species with native species. A second rain or shine work bee is planned for this Saturday, April 28th, and they’ve put out a call for more volunteers to help.

Invasive plants are spread through illegal dumping of garden waste and seeds or dispersal by wildlife and wind, causing ecological destruction. This project will help prevent and control the spread of invasive plants while protecting the ecological integrity of our parks. Good boots, comfortable clothing and registration (at the office) are required.

What to know if you want to go:

  • WHEN: Saturday April 28th (Rain or Shine)
  • TIME: 1pm – 4pm
  • WHERE: Lower Hume Park, New Westminster
  • WHAT: Celebrate Earth Day: Invasive Plant Removal and Native Replanting. In Intergenerational Event
  • WHO: New Westminster residents age 13+
  • REGISTRATION: Call 604-519-1066 Pre registration is mandatory. This is a free event.

Small acts of community in our own little garbage patch

The Lamb on the Quay boardwalk. Photo: Laura Schneider.
The Lamb on the Quay boardwalk. Photo: Laura Schneider.

The other day I noticed a bunch of Canadian geese down at the Fraser River Styrofoam patch. Why, I wondered, would they prefer to toddle here rather than fly south for the winter? More importantly, I wondered why was no one cleaning this mess up.

The area in question is home to a bunch of stray logs that get jammed into a small grassy, muddy alcove making it a perfect catchall for all kinds of debris.

These logs, which look natural and quite fetching tangle themselves up with those nasties; large pieces of Styrofoam, their offspring chunks and worst of all those pellet sized eggballs that are near impossible to pick up.

I think we all know that Styrofoam is bad and unsightly on our shoreline, but why is it so bad?

Well aside from those crumbling little eggballs that birds and other wildlife seem to find so tasty and then get sick from because it blocks their digestive system which ultimately causes starvation, new research shows that contrary to popular belief, plastic and its chemically gassy, blown-up sibling Styrofoam may actually be breaking down in as little as one year, if the conditions are right.

So the good news is that plastics may be breaking down in no time; the bad news is that these plastics may be releasing all their unpronounceable and potentially toxic chemicals in to our water system a whole lot sooner than we thought.

Well thank goodness none of us drink from the Fraser.

Garbage bagged in a one-person, one-day cleanup at the Quay included about 15 pounds of waterlogged Styrofoam, plastic and glass bottles, cigarette butts, newspapers, a mountain dew box, plastic bags, rope, drink caps, tampon applicators, both paper and plastic, tons of those little wrappers that cover mints you get when you leave the Boat House and, oddly, a coconut. Photo: Laura Schneider.
Garbage bagged in a one-person, one-day cleanup at the Quay included about 15 pounds of waterlogged Styrofoam, plastic and glass bottles, cigarette butts, newspapers, a mountain dew box, plastic bags, rope, drink caps, tampon applicators, both paper and plastic, tons of those little wrappers that cover mints you get when you leave the Boat House and, oddly, a coconut. Photo: Laura Schneider.

And as an aside… why don’t we recycle Styrofoam? As it turns out, no one wants to. Apparently, it can’t be made into much except plastic lunch trays and packing material and it costs a lot to do that. Additionally, the pollution generated by making these lunch trays etc. is far more than making them from scratch.

So anyway, back to the garbage patch that my dog Lamb and I have been walking past for years. It’s interesting because it changes. I’ve seen some really big stuff in there. I once crawled down to investigate an industrial cooler that was about three quarters the size of a refrigerator. My mischievous self wondered if wasn’t big enough to contain a body or some other nastiness.

Anyway this stuff does occasionally appear and surprisingly disappear, but not often enough for my liking. So today I put on my boots, a warm winter coat and red rubber gloves. I grabbed my rake, garbage bags and the Lamb and off we went to clean the mess up.

Lamb in tow, I tossed her over the rail, in order that she may have a good spot for supervising. The idea being that if I fell in or hurt myself she’d sound the alarm.

Once down there you become aware that it isn’t just Styrofoam, it’s all kinds of stuff. And in keeping with the recent Queensborough Shoreline Clean Up initiative held this past September, I think that it’s really important we document my findings.

Here is a list of what I found: lots of Styrofoam, about 15 water logged pounds worth, plastic and glass bottles, some of which were alcoholic and surprisingly still contained remnants inside, cigarette butts, newspapers, a mountain dew box, plastic bags, rope, drink caps, tampon applicators, both paper and plastic, tons of those little wrappers that cover mints you get when you leave the Boat House and of all things a coconut, which I left there.

The interesting thing is that many of these items start to look like natural detritus, which I think, is a plus, to some degree. A while back I was in Hawaii taking pictures of shoreline garbage, which is virtually unnoticeable until you get close. In part because wave erosion, salt and sun convert it to look like everything else in the environment. What a coup.

Again, back to the Quay… so a few people walked by and asked what I was up to, in fact, one person took photographs, as if this was something amazing or covert. I explained that I was taking half an hour out of my day and putting it toward my own personal community initiative. I was going to pick up garbage and report my findings.

In closing, I would like to challenge all New Westmintonians to make their own community initiative. Find something to do that gives back to the community and report back. I’d love to hear from you.

In the words of Noam Chomsky

“We shouldn’t be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas.”

NWEP hosting AGM and Energy Resiliency and Energy Transition Planning Forum

2011 NWEP AGM Poster
2011 NWEP AGM Poster

Never heard of energy resiliency or energy transition planning?  Neither had I until a few weeks ago, however will become a growing topic of importance in New Westminster over the coming years.

New Westminster Environmental Partners (NWEP) would like to invite the public to learn more at a forum on Energy Resiliency and Energy Transition Planning on Monday December 5th. This forum will be preceded by the NWEP’s Annual General Meeting and election of directors for 2012. The AGM will start at 6:00 with the public forum presentations starting after 6:30pm. The event will take place at the New Westminster River Market.

The economy is foremost in most people’s minds these days as news of a possible financial meltdown in the European Union mingle with the spectre of out-of-control debt in the USA, and uncertainty how these events might impact Canada’s export-based economy. Just below the surface is the awareness of ever increasing energy prices. While the prospects for the   development of new energy sources remain good, more of these new supplies will go towards the growing appetite in developing countries, leaving ever-depleting traditional sources on which our economy has depended. The environmental costs of these new sources of energy – tar sands extraction, natural gas fracking, pipelines and tankers, – are significant, though typically out of sight of consumers. Yet, the bill has yet to come in for our green house gas emissions, and their impacts on climate change. The net effect is the end of traditional sources of cheap, abundant and reliable energy to power our economy into the next generation. We will be less able to control the price and impacts of our own energy supply. The resulting social impacts of energy uncertainty range from the cost of living, quality of life and the types of employment which are generally available.

Energy is at the heart of the sustainability agenda promoted by the NWEP and binds sustainability’s three pillars of environment, economy, and society. Increasingly, policy makers are speaking of the need for “energy resiliency” in our society, and the need to plan an orderly transition to a less energy intensive economy. In 2011 the City of New Westminster embarked upon a Community Energy and Emissions Plan (CEEP). The CEEP aims to put in place programs and practices which enable residents, businesses and the City Corporation to reduce their energy consumption and green house gas emissions over the next 20 years to significantly below 2007 levels while at the same time growing in population, employment and business activity. The impacts of such a plan can have a profound influence on how we live, move about, carry out business and the types of employment we might find in the City 20 years from now.

The NWEP supports the City’s CEEP developments and would like to promote Energy Resiliency and Energy Transition Planning as topics to engage and promote in 2012. For our AGM public forum we have invited two local speakers with significant experience on energy, energy policy and energy transition solutions. Together our speakers have considerable experience on transportation and building energy use, by far the two greatest demands for energy and sources of green house gas emissions in New Westminster.

Leading the evening will be Stuart Ramsey, a transportation engineer with over 25 years of experience working in the private and public sectors and has focused on urban transportation issues in Metro Vancouver for several years. Mr. Ramsey was involved with research for a local municipal report which was the first “peak oil” report to be received by any government in Canada. He is a regular speaker on transportation topics.

The second speaker will be Steven Bishop, a curriculum developer and instructor with the Building Energy and Resource Management Program at Douglas College, and a consultant for sustainable building practices. Mr. Bishop has 35 years experience in the building industry in roles ranging from residential builder to commercial and institutional construction project management. He is an accredited professional LEED sustainable building advisor and is currently involved with designing the curriculum for the Provincial Instructors Diploma program for sustainable building advisors.

The presentations will be followed by Q&A and open discussion about the evening’s topics.

To learn more about NWEP and other issues we’re addressing visit our website at http://nwep.ca

The candidates weigh in: what to do about the Pattullo?

The Pattullo Bridge. Photo: Gord McKenna
The Pattullo Bridge. Photo: Gord McKenna

This is the third in a series of articles sharing highlights from NWEP’s mayor and council candidates questionnaire on environmental issues. The first article in the series shared the mayoral candidates’ takes on “sustainability” in New West, and the second dealt with traffic. The full questionnaire and all candidate responses are on NWEP’s website.

While we shared the candidates’ opinions on traffic issues in our last post in this series, it’s worth taking a little more time to discuss one issue in particular that could have a profound impact on traffic flow in New Westminster: the proposed replacement of the Pattullo Bridge. Unless otherwise indicated, responses are from council candidates.

NWEP asked the candidates: TransLink continues to mull a replacement for the Pattullo Bridge. Would you rather see the bridge repaired, replaced with a 4-lane structure, or replaced with a larger structure? Would you support tolling the bridge to pay for its replacement? If you don’t support replacement, would you support tolling the existing bridge?

Here’s what they said:

Repair the bridge

Susan Wandell
If the bridge is not structurally sound, it should be replaced. If it is safe, it should be changed to a 3 lane bridge operating like the Lions Gate Bridge alternating two lanes direction during rush hours.

Replace the bridge with a 4-lane structure

Vance McFadyen – Mayoral Candidate
Considering the Pattullo Bridge was opened in 1939 (I believe), the considerable amount of money already spent on maintenance/repair and most importantly the many vehicular deaths caused primarily by design and congestion, I would prefer to see it replaced with a well designed 4 lane bridge and tolled.

François Nantel – Mayoral Candidate
They should build a new 4-lane bridge, which would be one way up to McBride, and keep the old one as one way down to King George. All money should come from the Bank of Canada, just printed new money (electronically, like the charter banks do), and build the bridge as an asset of corresponding value, creating no inflation. Same thing should have been done for all capital expenditures. Unfortunately, we have been hoodwinked. In case of an earthquake, may be 1 bridge would do better than the other, keeping a critical link between the shores of the Fraser

Jonathan Cote
If Translink moves ahead with the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge, I would only support a 4 lane structure. New Westminster’s road network is operating near capacity and cannot handle increased traffic. The expansion of the Pattullo Bridge would only induce more traffic into our community and local neighbourhoods.

Vladimir Krasnogor
Until we have a complete picture of costs and other details, replacing with 4-lane seems the most practical solution. I am well aware that members of the community prefer a larger structure, and some people prefer no bridge at all.

Betty McIntosh
A new 4 lane with proper widths would give as much capacity as New Westminster could accomodate with continued tolls

Replace the bridge with a larger structure

Gerry Liu
The issues of the Pattullo Bridge is to replace with a larger structure, and with the bridge construction helped with Federal Funding.

Supports tolls

Vance McFadyen – Mayoral Candidate
I would prefer to see it replaced with a well designed 4 lane bridge and tolled. I cannot honestly comment on tolling the existing bridge unless it is to build funds for the new bridge but I fear it may take too long to accomplish that goal.

Jonathan Cote
Although I have some concerns about the un-coordinated road pricing system that exists in Metro Vancouver, I think it is reasonable that Translink pursue this as an option to finance this project.

Jaimie McEvoy
If other bridges are tolled and a new Pattullo was not, that would encourage more vehicles into New Westminster. I would like to see tolling, but with a low toll or none at all for local residents, promoting the idea of a local bridge for local traffic, which is only one-third of the bridge’s actual total now.

As a SkyTrain rider and transit user myself, it occurs to me that I do pay a toll every time I use public transit. SkyTrain and buses are just as much a part of the transit system our taxes paid for as roads, yet there is a specific toll each and every time. This disincentive to use transit should be eliminated. Public transit is just a way of getting around, just like roads and bridges, and should be free and equally paid for through our taxes.

Betty McIntosh
I think the present bridge should be tolled now to gather funds for a replacement bridge of 4 lanes in the future.

Bob Osterman
We MUST have the Patullo tolled,if we do not, we will become the Fraser crossing of choice and we will be inundated with even yet more traffic.

Susan Wandell
Tolls are a fair way of paying for infrastructure. Tolls are used throughout the Maritimes and are accepted. Once the Gateway project is completed and a toll in place on the Port Mann Bridge, the Pattullo Bridge will have to be tolled in order to protect the liveability of our neighbourhoods from the increase in traffic.

Lorrie Williams
If tolls go up on the Port Mann then they have to go up on the Pattullo.

Opposes tolls

John Ashdown
With the gas and associated government taxes and fees now levied against motorists I am against tolls. The gas tax was brought in decades ago specifically to cover expense of roads and bridges and they continue to rise. Use that tax for it’s intended use. TransLink being constantly in our pockets to cover costs is double dipping as are the board of directors with their TransLink and Mayor’s Salaries.

Other answers

James Crosty – Mayoral Candidate
I support the question going to the public as a referendum after ensuring that all options are presented to the people of New Westminster.

Wayne Wright – Mayoral Candidate
The Pattullo bridge must be replaced and consultation will determine the optimum size. Tolling and road pricing is on the agenda with GVRD and the Province.

John Ashdown
About all you can do with Pattullo bridge to maintain it is, Paint and Patch. Increasing lanes? Not likely by design. It is an old bridge and deserves a place in New West’s history. I am in favour of a new Bridge off United in Coquitlam where it can connect via King Edward to Lougheed and the Stormont connector. Why not build a new bridge and retain the Pattullo for pedestrians, cyclists, scooters and “0” emission electric vehicles.

Jaimie McEvoy
Patullo Bridge as it currently exists is fundamentally unsafe. It does not adequately accommodate cyclists and pedestrians. It was closed for a time because part of it is actually made of wood and it caught fire.

And when it was closed, life continued. The traffic disaster that resulted adjusted after a couple of days.

In my view, it never made a lot of sense to connect a 1930s bridge to a residential street system initially designed for the horse and buggy. It makes less sense to add two more lanes of traffic to a small city where people have to drive through those residential areas before connecting with major roadways.
Two-thirds of the bridge’s traffic is not local at all to New Westminster or North Surrey, but is just passing through to somewhere else. A new Pattullo Bridge could route through North Surrey, and connect with Highway 1 and North Road in Coquitlam. It’s an only an idea, but an idea worth considering.

Any decision on the bridge should not occur before complete environmental and impact assessments on the options, and fair consideration of all of the options.

David Noshad
Issues like this require extensive research and analyzing all the pros and cons. I will base my decision on the best interest of the city, environment and our citizens’ preference.

Gavin Palmer
We need to work with TransLink in dealing with the Pattullo Bridge. It has to be done within the constraints of public funding and whether it is repaired, refurbished or replaced will depend on the overall plan to move traffic through the region. New Westminster is not the dumping ground for the region’s traffic issues and we need to garner better respect from our neighbors. We are the keystone to the region and we deserve better treatment from our regional government not the current lip service our current regime accepts from this body.

Chuck Puchmayr
There is a group called Get Moving BC, which had a report produced by a Voice New Westminster founding director (see Kent Spencer, The Province Published: Monday, September 15, 2008) recommending another 8 lanes of traffic into New Westminster by replacing the Pattullo bridge with an 8 lane structure at the foot of King George. I do not support an 8 lane Pattullo replacement. We can’t keep dumping the regions traffic through our city. When an 8 lane bridge becomes gridlocked, and it will, our neighbourhoods will suffer total gridlock and emergency vehicle response times will become critical.

Lorrie Williams
I don’t know enough about bridges to know if it should be replaced or repaired or expanded.