George Zimmerman and other members of the Vernon Collectors Club have stopped picking up trash on Highway 97 because of safety concerns.

George Zimmerman and other members of the Vernon Collectors Club have stopped picking up trash on Highway 97 because of safety concerns.

Trash collection dumped over safety

Vernon Collectors Club trashes Highway 97 clean-up efforts along Swan Lake due to safety concerns

Community activism is being trashed because of bureaucracy.

The Vernon Collectors Club will no longer pick up garbage along the Swan Lake portion of Highway 97 because it says the provincial government hasn’t taken any steps to ensure the safety of volunteers.

“They won’t do anything for us,” said George Zimmerman, with the club.

“We won’t do it any more because it’s too dangerous.”

As part of the Adopt A Highway program, the club began picking up trash between the overpass and the weigh scales six years ago.

Being struck by a vehicle has been a major concern for the 10 members who regularly participate four times during the summer.

“Cars are going by at 100 kilometres an hour and blowing us off the road,” said Zimmerman.

Orange vests have been supplied, but the Ministry of Transportation has denied requests for flagpersons and signs urging motorists to slow down because of volunteers working along the highway.

The club has also had to pay $650 a year for $2 million liability insurance.

“We want the public to know why we aren’t doing this anymore,” said Zimmerman.

About 20 to 30 bags of garbage — 500 since 2006 — are collected during each clean-up session.

“Lumber, plastic, you name it,” said Zimmerman, adding that the group’s efforts have meant the ministry has not had to provide garbage control.

“We’ve been doing this as a community service and making it a little more respectable along there.”

Murray Tekano, Ministry of Transportation district manager, says there are protocols for the Adopt A Highway program.

“The obligation for safety falls on the group. Basic signage is provided,” he said, adding that flagpersons would be subject to traffic controls and that process can be onerous.

Tekano believes options exist for the club.

“There are other areas of highways we can find for them if they wish to continue,” he said.

“We certainly appreciate their contributions.”

Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, is surprised to hear the ministry denied the group’s safety requests.

“I will have to ask and see why they couldn’t do that. I will see what we can do,” he said, adding that he has contacted the group about its concerns.

“It’s a nice service they do for the community.”