Project supports Earth Day activities

Earth Day is this Thursday, with a mission to organize awareness-raising activities that help people and organizations reduce their environmental impact. First observed in 1970, more than a billion people in 193 countries participate in Earth Day events each year, according to the organization’s website. It has evolved into the world’s largest environmental movement.

Frank Adamson is a governor of District 7090 of Rotary Club International, which includes 66 clubs in New York State and Ontario. He spoke to the Voice about the organization’s latest project, the Great Lakes Watershed Cleanup, which ties in with the Earth Day theme, and runs from Saturday, April 24 to Tuesday, June 1.

“We’re trying to coordinate our efforts amongst all the clubs that border the Great Lakes,” said Adamson.

The Great Lakes Watershed spans two provinces and eight states, involving 18 districts in Canada and the USA, which translates into approximately 900 clubs and 27,000 Rotarians.

“Pelham doesn’t border either Lake Erie or Lake Ontario, but we are at the headwaters of the creek that starts beside Pelham Cares on Highway 20, and eventually empties into Lake Ontario. And of course, we’ve got the Welland Canal,” said Adamson.

Adamson explained that Rotary International has had six areas of focus since its founding: promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene, saving mothers and children, supporting education, and growing local economies. This year, officially launching in July, Rotary is adding a seventh area of focus: protecting the environment.

“This initiative is being promoted by District 7090 as part of its Healthy Communities Initiative,” he said. “We see this as an annual project, and probably the biggest single cleanup of the Great Lakes that’s ever been undertaken.”

Adamson was quick to point out that the project involves not just Rotarians, but high school students and volunteer citizens.

“Plastics are obviously a huge problem,” lamented Adamson. “A lot of this stuff gets blown out of blue boxes and the gray boxes on recycling day…it gets picked up by the wind and it ends up all over the place. Plus we see a lot of Tim Horton’s stuff that some people just toss out their car windows.”

The Great Lakes contains almost 20 percent of the world’s fresh water, and with over 15,000 kilometres of shoreline is arguably the largest source of fresh water on the planet. Trash in the water poses a threat to terrestrial and aquatic life, degrading into microplastics and harmful toxins. More than 10 million kilograms of trash and plastic pollution ends up in the Great Lakes each year, according to the Rotary International website.

John Cappa is the designated “point-man” for the local watershed cleanup effort, although he has only been a Rotarian for about a year.

“Now that I’m a bit older and further ahead in my career, I’ve got more time to volunteer, which is what I always wanted to do,” he said.

Cappa said that the local Rotary organizing committee, made up of members of the Welland and Fonthill clubs, is coordinating cleanup at a number of proximal sites in Fonthill and Welland, and south to Port Colborne. Groups will be limited to a maximum of five people at a time, and will strictly follow social distancing and safety protocols.

Specific target areas for cleanup crews include the shoreline adjacent to H. H. Knoll Park in Port Colborne, the Wainfleet Wetlands Conservation Area, Foss Road between South Pelham and Effingham in Pelham, and River Road at Colbeck Drive.

“We will be assigning groups that are composed of families within a particular bubble, because we’ll still be in lockdown when the effort commences,” said Cappa.

All of the local municipalities have agreed to supply garbage bags, gloves, high-visibility vests, and other safety equipment, plus weigh all the trash collected.

“One of Rotary’s goals is community engagement, and we think this is a great event for the entire family, a good way for the grandparents and the grandkids to get together outside,” said Cappa. He added that the overarching goal is to educate the public about the importance of protecting our waterways, and to instill a sense of stewardship towards the Great Lakes.

For information on volunteering for the cleanup, contact [email protected] Local cleanup efforts can be followed online at: https://rotarycluboffonthill.ca/Stories/rotary-great-lakes-watershed-cleanup