Back to clean up Tower Road

By DAWN BOOTH, Managing Editor of Connect Weekly

A pile of garbage; including a lawn mower, office desk and other broken furniture shown dumped on Tower Road. Photo was taken on September 12, 2015.

A pile of garbage; including a lawn mower, office desk and other broken furniture shown dumped on Tower Road. Photo was taken on September 12, 2015.

Once again, the state of Tower Road is littered with empty shotgun shells, unwanted furniture… the list goes on. It was back in May – during the 2015 Fort McMurray Environment Week, I was joined with my fellow Fort McMurray Environment Committee (FMEC) members, volunteers from the Northern Off-road Society, the Fort McMurray Gun Club, the Fort McMurray Jeep Club and Tower Road Equine Association, city workers and the team from Alberta Parks, for the 7th Annual Tower Road Clean-Up (an initiative started by FMEC in the fall of 2008).

Weather wasn’t on our side this day, but we still had a dedicated group of over 55 people come out to help clean in the rain, which resulted in an estimated 16, 984 pounds of illegally dumped materials off the road and into the municipality’s landfill. After the clean-up, FMEC members and I decided, that although we picked up a substantial amount, there was much left to do.

A few weeks later, a press release was sent out from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo stating in the Bylaw Services Weekly Update from July 24: “The community’s ongoing efforts in reducing illegal dumping on Tower Road continues to have positive results.”

However, it seems positive news of our clean ups never seem to last, as we keep coming back each year. And when I took the drive down Tower Road last Saturday, I discovered mounds of trash in the very spots we had volunteers – tirelessly, cold and wet from the rain – cleaning up.

However, it seems positive news of our clean ups never seem to last, as we keep coming back each year. And when I took the drive down Tower Road last Saturday, I discovered mounds of trash in the very spots we had volunteers – tirelessly, cold and wet from the rain – cleaning up.

I am aware that our local RCMP and bylaw services, as well as Alberta Parks, have been monitoring the road more frequent. And this is appreciated. This is needed. Years ago, Lee Chambers was hired as Fort McMurray’s first environment bylaw officer and he did a remarkable job watching out for our back country. But now comes a time where we need a solid solution.

When I first joined FMEC and approached them about the illegal dumping on Tower Road, members helped seek out answers to why this was happening and why people were getting away with it. Our answers were replied with that Tower Road is a “grey area”, in the middle of ownership between the city and the province.
Seven years later, FMEC continues to host the annual event, and after our scheduled upcoming September 26 event, this will make it twice in one year for the first time.

When Don Scott was MLA, he had approached me on this issue and asked what I thought could be the solution. Quite honestly, I didn’t have much of a reply, aside from possible surveillance cameras and raising the fines. This costs money and manpower, but it could be a solution.

I’ve had this same conversation with many community members and volunteers. We are all a little baffled. Some believe the prices at the dump are too high, others blame the illegal dumpers for being lazy. “Why do they do it?” It’s a question I ask myself every time I’m out there, and I hope there’s a day when I can ask an illegal dumper myself.

The committee and I are planning to sit down, go through our records, try to find solutions and start asking more questions. The only problem is, we may be asking the wrong people. It’s only the illegal dumpers who can answer this for us.

The committee and I are planning to sit down, go through our records, try to find solutions and start asking more questions. The only problem is, we may be asking the wrong people. It’s only the illegal dumpers who can answer this for us. They may be the only ones who can tell us why they are doing it and how we can help them stop.

With that, join the Fort McMurray Environment Committee on Saturday, September 26, 2015. We will meet at the entrance to Tower Road at 10 a.m. and clean until 1 p.m. Safety and cleaning supplies will be provided. We ask volunteers to dress appropriately (closed-toe shoes) and for the weather.

If you have any further questions, you can contact me directly at info@fmec.org or go online to www.fmec.org.
Hopefully, there’s a day when we hold our last Tower Road Clean-Up event. Until then, let’s stay CONNECTed!

– Connect Weekly –