People using rest areas and other public property as personal landfills is something Gabriel Nava is seeing more of in the North Okanagan-Shuswap.
While there may be be less traffic on Highway 1, AIM Roads’ operation manager for the region said he is seeing an increase in illegal dumping occurring along roads in the North Okanagan-Shuswap.
“In all my contract areas it’s happening lots, Salmon Arm, also Vernon, it’s also happening near the dumps because people don’t want to pay the fees… they go back to the road and dump it at the end of the road,” said Nava, explaining the procedure for cleaning up such messes is more concerning now with COVID-19.
One of the more recent incidents of illegal garbage dumping was discovered by Ann Altmeyer at the rest area along Highway 1 west of Sicamous. Altmeyer said she stopped at the rest area on Saturday, May 2, and found a pile of unbagged garbage strewn about the ground next to the bear-proof waste bins.
“The people who so thoughtlessly and uncaringly contributed to this mess should be ashamed of themselves,” commented Altmeyer in an email to the Observer. “If the containers were full, there is/was absolutely no reason or excuse for not taking their trash home and disposing of it properly.”
Cleaning and maintenance of local highway rest areas is among AIM Roads’ responsibilities as contracted by the province.
Nava said even in cases where people’s identification have been found among illegally discarded refuse, it is still difficult to hold them accountable, let alone fine them for the offense.
“The last person we tried to pursue last week, they dumped a bunch of garbage in the Sicamous area, they were from Alberta, and we got all their information, we tried to contact them, we tried to give them a nice warning to please don’t do it again, and right away they denied everything…,” said Nava. “In my 14-year career, I still haven’t seen anybody penalized $2,000 for littering… It’s really hard to enforce it unless you don’t catch them. That’s what the RCMP let us know, you need to be right on site.”
Nava reminds people that discarded waste can be an attractant for wildlife, which can create additional problems for the public – and wildlife – both on and off the road. He also stressed that people cleaning up these messes are local, they’re from our communities.
“It’s very nasty to go clean someone else’s mess,” said Nava.