The view from the top of Little Mountain is one of the best you’ll get in Parksville — as long as you keep your eyes on the horizon.
If you look down however, it’s not nearly as nice.
That’s because there’s a mountain of trash at the bottom that has been tossed from the top — either because the owners don’t want to pay for proper disposal or simply for the novelty of throwing something large over a 300-foot cliff.
“We see lots of household garbage, appliances, furniture, shopping carts, newspaper boxes, couches, beds, golf balls, golf clubs, you name it,” said area resident Megan Olsen.
On Sunday, Olsen led a group of 15 neighbours, politicians and other concerned citizens on a hike to the bottom of the cliff, to show just how bad the situation has become.
The hike, from the intersection of Belleview and Matterson in Errington, winds through scenic woods on a well-graveled path that Olsen said was put in place by a film crew three years ago while filming the movie, Wrecked. The crew, she said, did a cleanup of the site prior to turning on the cameras, but the situation has deteriorated significantly since then.
“I live in the area and so this is kind of right in my back yard and the dumping is just continuous,” she said. “The area is in dire straits and needs to be cleaned up.”
Indeed, as the group winds past magnificent house-sized boulders towards the base of the cliff, the problem becomes clear. What should be the climax of a beautiful walk through the forest becomes a situation of carefully picking one’s way over everything from junked electronics to old clothing and mouldy couches.
Coombs/Hillers Regional District of Nanaimo director Julian Fell was among the group and he said the problem is in no way new. People have been dumping trash over the cliff for years, he said, so the first order of business has to be prevention of more items being added to the pile.
“Stopping more dumping would be the first step,” Fell said. “We need to arrest the problem and then we have to figure a way to get it out of here.”
That’s going to be difficult, he said, because there is no road to the bottom of the cliff at this time, so one would either need to be created or the many large items would need to be either helicoptered out or winched out by a boom crane back up the cliff. Any of these options, he said, would be not only highly labour intensive but also very expensive.
“It’s very difficult to work on a 45-degree slope,” he said as he climbed the mound of garbage to the relative safety of a large boulder. “Everyone has to be roped up.”
Olsen agreed that prevention is a clear first step and she wants to deter potential dumpers with cameras at the top and fencing that would make dumping large items more difficult.
“A live webcam would be great,” she said. “There’s nothing like a little public shaming.”
She said two cameras might be required, one to watch the approach to the cliff and one to watch the parking area, in order to get licence plate numbers from offending vehicles.
Olsen gathered her small army of volunteers via a Facebook page she set up, entitled Little Mountain Cleanup Volunteers and she’s hoping more people will get on board with the effort.
She said the site has been cleaned up twice already and, since the site is Crown land, she wants the ministry to get involved in a cleanup and prevention program.
To this end, she has begun circulating a petition and is encouraging residents who are concerned about the situation to lodge a formal complaint with the Ministry of Forests.
“Just visit their website and you can find a complaint form,” she said. “Click on that, fill it out and send it back to the ministry and hopefully we can get this resolved.”