Young volunteers help out with the 2019 upper Cowichan River clean-up. (File photo)

Young volunteers help out with the 2019 upper Cowichan River clean-up. (File photo)

Tube Shack takes on Cowichan River clean-up

River Stewards opted not to hold theirs this year due to COVID-19

The Tube Shack is picking up where the Cowichan Lake & River Stewardship Society had to leave off.

Following the advice of public health officers relating to COVID-19, the CLRSS decided to cancel its annual upper river clean-up this year. Knowing that the Cowichan River still needed a good tidying anyway, employees of The Tube Shack will dedicate their time to cleaning the river on Sept. 13, and are inviting the rest of the community to join them.

The Tube Shack does what it can to keep the river tidy on a regular basis, but they are going all-in as the summer comes to a close.

“We’ve already been doing weekly clean-ups already,” Tube Shack employee Rachel Murphy said. “We send a couple of people down the river every week. But we thought we would do one big hurrah at the end of the season.”

Those weekly clean-ups have produced a range of yields, from just a few items to occasional big hauls.

“It kind of comes and goes,” Murphy noted. “Sometimes they’ll come back with not too much, and sometimes there’s so much stuff. It ebbs and flows with the number of people on the river.”

Past clean-ups organized by the CLRSS have led to the discovery of old appliances, chunks of metal and tons of garbage, as well as bagloads of cans and bottles that end up going to a good cause along with donations from the community.

Murphy has been seeking donations from local businesses that will be awarded as prizes to the volunteers who help out.

“We’ve got quite a good batch of donations to give out,” she said.

The CLRSS has always had at least 50 volunteers for its clean-ups, and often many more than that, and decided this year — after consulting with Island Health — that physical distancing and other protocols would make it too difficult. Already working in close quarters, The Tube Shack employees decided it wouldn’t be a stretch for them to go ahead. Groups of people who volunteer together can work on the river in their own bubbles.

“There’s enough space to keep people apart,” Murphy said. “We all work in the same bubble — all the Tube Shack employees will be there — and we’ll see how big it ends up being.”

RELATED: COVID cancels clean up of Cowichan River

CLRSS president Ken Traynor wants to resume his organization’s clean-up in 2021, and The Tube Shack would be willing to partner with the group.

“Let’s hope we can all get back to the river clean-up next year,” Traynor said in a letter to the Lake Cowichan Gazette last month. “But until we do please do what you can to keep our river and lake clean and litter free. And in the spirit of Dr. Bonnie Henry please: Be kind to the river, Be calmed by the river and Be safe on the river.”

It’s in everyone’s best interests to keep the river clean, Murphy added.

“It’s not nice going down and seeing crap in the river,” she said. “It’s not good for the environment. We already do the river-safe sunscreen and try to get people to use that. It’s all about keeping the river clean.”

To volunteer or donate to the river clean-up, contact Tube Shack owner Aaron Frisby at aaronf@cowichanriver.com or 250-532-3269.

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