Cleaning up our community

May 2, 2018
Council Column

Spring has finally sprung! It’s been nice to feel the warmth coming back into the air and see the flowers finally push through the soil to bring colour to our gardens and yards. But, with the snow gone this winter’s litter has also been uncovered. So, it’s a good time for us to roll up our sleeves and collectively clean up our common spaces.

Over the past few weeks various groups and individuals have been out cleaning up their neighborhoods and public spaces. Many of the schools have engaged students in the clean-up of their school yards and surrounding areas, and a number of youth groups have tackled specific areas that needed clean up in advance of the tourist season. Our public works crews have also begun sprucing up our City’s parks and playgrounds and the Riverfront Trail.

Over the past month, the Quesnel Clean Team has been busy cleaning up particularly problematic areas in our community where there are a lot of discarded needles and drug paraphernalia. Like most communities, the issue of discarded needles has become an increasing public health and safety concern. While the provincial government and health authorities distribute needles as part of their harm reduction strategy (in part, to prevent the spread of communicable diseases among intravenous drug users) they do not provide any direct support to communities to clean-up the discarded drug paraphernalia that ends up littering our public spaces, including our parks and playgrounds.

As in many communities, a group of peers (former and current drug users) have organized themselves in Quesnel to respond to the public safety concerns associated with discarded needles and other drug paraphernalia. Formerly known as the Quesnel Green Team, this group has recently renamed themselves the “Clean Team,” which is the designation used by similar peer groups in other communities.

The Quesnel Clean Team, with assistance from Seasons House and the City of Quesnel, is in the process of engaging our business associations in discussions about more formal partnerships that would see this Team provide a range of clean-up services to our business areas on a consistent basis. Along with needle sweeps, Clean Teams in other communities also provide more general clean-up services and address issues like graffiti and the messes left behind by dumpster divers.

An early outcome of the dialogue between the Clean Team, our three Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), and the City of Quesnel has been the organization of a community clean-up event scheduled for this Saturday, May 5th from 10 am until 4 pm. Each of the BIAs are organizing a clean-up of their areas and will be offering refreshments and prizes. Quesnel Clean Team members will be available at each location to deal with any caches of needles or drug paraphernalia that are discovered during the clean-up process – volunteers are not expected to handle this material merely report it.

Please make some time this Saturday to join in on this community undertaking. You simply have to show up at Baker Creek Park (West Quesnel Business Association), Spirit Centre (Downtown Business Association), or Staples Parking Lot (South Quesnel Business Association) to pick up some garbage bags and get assigned to an area. Bring gloves and hi-vis vests if you have them, some gloves will be available at each location.

Let’s roll up our sleeves this weekend and give our community a good spring clean!

(p.s. We hope to make this an annual event on Earth Day starting in 2019.)

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