Targeting Tower Road

By DAWN BOOTH, Managing Editor of Connect Weekly

As part of a Fort McMurray Environment Committee initiative, I was joined by fellow FMEC members: Karen Puga, Barry Duncan, Jessica Wong and Chris Beierling for the second Tower Road Clean-Up of the year on September 26. With 20 volunteers, the event resulted in over 6,000 pounds of illegally dumped debris from various sites on the road.

On behalf of FMEC, I send our thanks for the support from residents, employees from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) Bylaw services and RMWB Parks and Recreation, the officials from Environment Alberta Sustainable Resources Development, as well as, the many community groups including: the Northern Off-Road Society, the Fort McMurray Gun Club and the Tower Road Equine Association.

As per usual, household items, yard clippings, and animal carcasses were found in the bushes and roadside area, along Tower Road. However, I found there’s a new problem adding to an already ongoing issue. Target shooters had left thousands of gun shells and dozens of targets behind.

When FMEC first started the clean-up project in the fall of 2009, we joined forces with the Northern Off-Road Society (NOS). It was president of the society, Shane Ganong who approached me to see how they could help.

With their oversized recreation vehicles, the steel muscle was exactly what we needed as, at this time, there were dozens of burnt abandoned vehicles on the road. (The society later continued to work with the RMWB’s Bylaw Services to help take stolen vehicles out of back country areas throughout the city).

Last Saturday, I returned to the very site we held our first Tower Road Clean-Up. After our first clean-up, the area was barricaded to keep vehicles from driving in, and now it can be easily recognized with the spray-painted “NO SHOOTING” mark up on the cement dividers. The spot (about 10KM from the entrance) was once a locally owned and operated paint ball place.

 

After the business shut down, it be-came what some of us tagged as: “Fort McMurray’s other dump.” But today, we call it: “Shane’s spot,” because Ganong and his fellow NOS members have been battling for years to get a project up and running to use this spot for recreational purposes. It was an idea they thought of to keep people from using this area as a dump site.

The NOS members were thinking with logic, but as they continued to struggle to get it going, this area has been vacant – left for illegal dumpers to throw in their trash and for target shooters to blow off a few rounds.

Which takes me back to the new issue on Tower Road. Of all the clean ups, we have hosted in the past seven years, the issue of shooters not properly disposing gun shells and targets are adding to an already major issue. It was brought to my attention earlier this year when Chris Sutherland, a long-time friend and member of the Fort McMurray Gun Club, approached me to get involved. He wanted to raise awareness, on behalf of law-abiding gun shooters.

It’s legal for owners of a non-restrict-ed fire arms license to shoot on crown land. However, Sutherland expressed how many gun owners are upset with the result of gun shells being left on the road. He said it’s not common practice for people who are licensed owners.

“We pride ourselves as being law-abiding gun owners who use firearms responsibly. That means picking up after ourselves,” Sutherland, who is also a member of the Fort McMurray Fish and Game Association, said. “Just because we are allowed to do it, doesn’t mean we need to make a mess. This isn’t the type of behaviour we support and want others to know we are trying to stop it.”

“We pride ourselves as being law-abiding gun owners who use firearms responsibly. That means picking up after ourselves,” Sutherland, who is also a member of the Fort McMurray Fish and Game Association, said. “Just because we are allowed to do it, doesn’t mean we need to make a mess. This isn’t the type of behaviour we support and want others to know we are trying to stop it.”

Going forward, the FMEC and I will continue to volunteer with the many recreational groups and government officials in future clean ups and awareness campaigns. I appreciate all of those who have come together to help take action over the past seven years.

And to those who continuously trash our beautiful back country, your uncaring attitude and unwillingness to pay at our local dump is doing more damage than you may be aware of. When you illegally dump, you: degrade and destroy the land, reduce biodiversity, create blockage in creeks, and potential cause forest fires. You put residents and wild-life at risk of coming in contact with poisonous materials and you make us lose resources – some of the items that you dump can be recycled. Some of us take pride in our region. And as we are trying to look ahead to greener initiatives, you are setting us back.

– Connect Weekly –