Monday, June 06, 2016

Keep It Clean

The official opening of the TransCanada Trail bridge over River Philip at Oxford took place on Saturday, National Trails Day.
The existence of this bridge fills a hole in the trail, and allows locals to do a lovely loop around town. What was a quiet, little-used path down to the river that my friend Jane and I walked frequently with the dogs, this bridge and the expansion of the trail means a lot more people will be using and sharing this space.
Now the hope begins that everyone respects the dedication of a small group of people, led by Oxford resident Gerry McLellan, to get this "black hole" of the trail eliminated with this grand piece of construction. The bridge was fabricated and painted in Cumberland County, and the bridge deck planked by students in the woodworking program at Oxford Regional Education Centre. This bridge represents many years of dreaming, strategizing, fundraising, planning and flat-out physical labouring. Hard work, all of it, whether wrangling money from companies and governments or dealing with environmental rules and restrictions.
This bridge deserves to remain unmolested -- not vandalized or misused -- no matter how tempting that fresh, clean paint looks or the newly planted tree plugs appear. This hope isn't directed only at the miscreants in our community, but to everyone who arrives in our community planning to use this trail and pause at our new and donated picnic tables to enjoy the river and the bridge that makes crossing it possible.

While waiting for the speeches to begin, I overheard a conversation about garbage bins. There needs to be bins along the trail but there is concern about attracting bears if the garbage isn't taken away every day or so. I hate to hear this because even with garbage cans available along the trail, people will still toss their cans and paper wraps off to the side of the trail. Without any bins at all? It doesn't bear thinking. You just have to look at our roadsides to appreciate our resistance to keeping our garbage with us until we reach home.
After the ceremony, I walked back to town with a group of women. At one point, I heard a soft thud to my left and I stopped to stare at this white orb that had landed on the ground just off the trail.
"What is that?" I said.
"Oh, that's mine," the woman walking next to me said.
She had tossed her leftover cake, wrapped up in serviettes, into the shrubbery. She hadn't tossed it to the right, into the tall grass where at least no one would see, or further into the woods where no one would see. Nope, she merely tossed it a foot off the trail in plain view.
Telling everyone else it's okay to put your garbage here.
I was speechless, as I am always rendered by flagrant ignorance, and I almost -- ALMOST -- picked it up and said, "We can't leave it here," but damn it, I'm so pathologically non-confrontational that I didn't want to cause a scene or make her mad so I left it there. Maybe if I'd known there was a garbage bin at the head of trail where we were enroute, I might have picked it up and carried it there, quietly making a point.
I don't know what the answer is -- garbage bins and bears or just garbage everywhere.
It seems a shame we couldn't have enjoyed one day of pristine trail before someone desecrated it with ignorance and disrespect.

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