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Volunteers pull massive haul of garbage from Thames River banks

Reference: CTV News

Mattresses, broken bicycles, garbage, needles and even a makeshift toilet, were pulled from the banks of the Thames River at Richard B. Harrison Park in London, Ont.

The volunteer team at Antler River Rally (ARR) held its monthly cleanup Saturday and pulled dozens of bags of trash.

“While we're cleaning up the glass, I'm thinking about like little kids and animals that are running through here,” said Roxanne Horst, a student in Western University’s Masters of Environment and Sustainability program. “It makes it worthwhile knowing that it can make it like a safer environment for nature.”

After going over safety protocols, environmentalist and leader of ARR Tom Cull, instructed his team where to clean.

“Separate into groups of two or three for safety and be careful going up and down the banks,” Cull told the two dozen volunteers.

“The river is such a vibrant ecosystem and home to over 90 species of fish, plants and endangered turtles,” said Cull. “Everything that we do here is promoting the health of the river, so we're navigating some of the social and environmental issues that coalesce at the river.”

The social issues include dealing with those living rough near the river and picking up needles.
“We've chatted with folks who are camping along the river,” said Cull. “The one gentleman who has a tent over there, he knows that we're here. He's gone off to get some breakfast and he told us we're free to come and get some of the garbage if there's any garbage around his area. Obviously we won't go into his area and we respect his space.”

Cull and his team have been trying to build relationships with those living in tents. He says the City of London estimates there are over 350 urban camps within the city.

“We talked to the outreach team at the city before we came in here so that they could come into the area and talk to folks who might be camping rough to let them know that we would be down here,” said Cull. “We also carry Tim Hortons cards with us so that if we see someone and have a chat with them, we can give them a coffee and a sandwich.”

After just two hours, the group was able to pull dozens of bags of garbage along with other larger trash items from the river.

According to Cull, if not removed, it all would have ended up downstream in just a couple of months... Read More