The Island-wide 2024 Beach Clean-up on Cortes

The first truckload was filled over the roofline with beach debris. Sam Gibb drove into the Klahoose village shortly after 10:30 AM on Saturday. Alex Bernier, followed with a smaller load. Helen Hall and Autumn Barrett Morgan, two other members of the Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI), were there to help them unload. Stephanie Valdal, Services Coordinator for the Comox Strathcona Waste Management Service, had come from Courtenay. The debris collected by Klahoose Aquaculture had not yet arrived. By the time the month long Cortes Island wide beach clean-up officially ended, on Sunday, there was a bin full of beach debris. This year’s clean-up was a collaborative initiative between Klahoose Aquaculture, FOCI, the Ocean Legacy Foundation and Comox Strathcona Waste Management Service.  

Sorting through the beach debris – Helen Hall photo

“This is the first time we’ve done a whole island beach cleanup. We’ve been able to do that because we’ve been able to work with Comox Strathcona Waste Management and with Klahoose to bring an Ocean Legacy bin to the island, and also to get the super sacks that we’ve distributed around the community. So suddenly from us just doing one beach cleanup, which is what we’ve done for a number of years, we’ve been trying to target the whole island,” explained to Helen Hall, Executive director of FOCI. 

“The idea behind the event was that people would pick up garbage during the month of May. Then this weekend, which just happens to be Ocean’s Day,  people can bring their beach garbage to the Ocean Legacy bin. Quadra Island has been doing the same thing, supported by Comox Strathcona Waste Management. I understand last week they had their collection weekend. They managed to collect two full bins of garbage.”

Paul Muskee, Operations Manager for Klahoose Aquaculture emailed, “Klahoose Shellfish has been happy to be able to participate in the beach cleanups the past couple years by facilitating the drop off location. Klahoose Aquaculture lead-Ken Hanuse has been actively involved in keeping the communication lines open with everyone involved. Our thanks to all the Friends of Cortes Island, Regional District folks and volunteers that take an interest in keeping Cortes beautiful!”

Stephanie Valdal gave an overview of the waste management service’s role: 

“This is the first year that we are really putting a lot of attention and focus into removing the material from the environment and also advising the residents and local nonprofits that we have this program available and really encouraging them to participate.” 

“The role of the Comox Strathcona Waste Management Service when working with beach cleanups and community cleanups is to provide tipping fee waivers. 

“During COVID, we saw a lot of our older volunteers take a step back from participating in larger community events. We particularly noted that on Quadra, with the step back of the Sierra Quadra club. We  used that as an opportunity to step forward and fill the gap. Two years ago, we opened an Ocean Legacy Foundation recycling depot at our landfill in the Comox Valley.  Since then we are able to recycle all of the marine debris that we’ve been collecting, including aquaculture related material. This keeps a considerable amount of material out of the landfill.”

“The residents on Cortes really have been doing this independently and with nonprofit groups on Cortes for quite a while. I know Klahoose First Nation has been doing cleanups with Ocean Legacy, but the service has never  organized a community wide participation for beach cleanup on Cortes.”  

“Last year we did a soft start program, residents cleaned up debris, and in conjunction with Friends of Cortes Island and Klahoose First Nation, the service sent over a bin that was loaded and brought for recycling.” 

“We really believe that no community is too small and,  our service area has one of the smallest villages in British Columbia in it, Zeballos. We really do focus on the individual needs of the community.  Through the Ocean Legacy Program, we have been spending more time in our coastal communities, but it’s just because we’ve listened to the residents and that’s really what they’ve said is important to them.” 

Sam Gib described the role that he and Bernier played on Cortes:

“People volunteered to take these big plastic sacks and collect garbage from the beaches near where they live. I’ve been picking them up today.” 

We’ve picked up tires filled with styrofoam, half a canoe, quite a lot of aquaculture,  plastic trays, bits of rope, fish net, plastic buoys from boats and fenders. Anything plastic that can wash up on the beach, we’ve found it. Anything that people have been collecting and holding on to.” 

Helen Hall: “I was trying to work out  how to get people to pick up garbage off the beaches, but have been delighted how everyone’s been really pleased to take part. I think people are really inspired by us trying to do the whole Island.”

“We’re supported by ’10,000 Whales,’ a Cortes Island based initiative that Leslie MacMumford runs to generate money for the marine environment. We’re using that money to employ people to help us do this.” 

“We also are partnering with Hollyhock. They had a super sack” 

“I connected with some of the land-share communities on the shoreline, Treedom, the Red Granite community and Tiber Bay. Yesterday somebody from Tiber Bay went, ‘we had a whole month, but  if you give us a really tight deadline, we might get it done quicker.’” 

“If people have ideas for  where we could put super sacks, or how we could do it differently, we would love to hear from them. We’re starting to talk to some of the eco tourism operators about the possibility of their collecting garbage too..”  

“I think if people know that this is going to happen every year, they’re  going to be more inclined to get the garbage off the beach. They may even store it at home, knowing that they can get it once a year off the island.I think that’s a really good motivator for people, because people see garbage and they don’t know what to do with it. So I think having this as an annual thing would be great and  hopefully the community really gets behind it. We can keep our beaches clean, get the garbage off the beach, out of the ocean and away to be recycled – which we all want to do.” 

Top image credit: Sorting beach garbage to go in the bin – Roy L Hales photo

Sign-up for Cortes Currents email-out:

To receive an emailed catalogue of articles on Cortes Currents, send a (blank) email to subscribe to your desired frequency:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *