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Georgian Bay Forever launches 5th-annual shoreline cleanup

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In AWARE News Network
Jun 14th, 2023
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Ashley Morrison holds up a visual of the most commonly collected litter in the region. |

From CollingwoodToday, June 9, 2023
By Maddie Johnson

Georgian Bay Forever, a local environmental charity dedicated to the preservation and restoration of Georgian Bay, is once again spearheading its annual shoreline cleanup program.

Now in its fifth year, the initiative aims to promote environmental stewardship, raise awareness about pollution issues, and engage the community in hands-on conservation efforts.

“The program has grown in interest over the years,” said Ashley Morrison, project manager with Georgian Bay Forever. “I genuinely believe that getting people outdoors and connected to their environment not only improves their emotional, mental and physical well-being, but it confronts their inherent sense to protect the environment.”

With a focus on plastic pollution, particularly microplastics, Morrison and her team have been diligently working to combat this pressing environmental issue. One of the recent projects undertaken by Georgian Bay Forever was the microfibre filter project in Collingwood, which is closely tied to the ongoing shoreline cleanup program.

This year’s cleanups will take place in Collingwood, Blue Mountain, and Wasaga Beach, providing an opportunity for residents and visitors alike to actively participate in preserving the natural beauty of the region.

​​“If you are active in your community and connected with your land, you have a greater desire to protect what you know,” said Morrison. “By getting out and actually participating in a shoreline cleanup and seeing what is happening right here at our doorstep, it gives you a greater appreciation and desire to protect that overall environment.”

The cleanups started on June 5 and will continue until the end of August. The schedule includes weekly two-hour sessions at Sunset Point in Collingwood (Tuesdays at 1 p.m.), Beach Area 2 in Wasaga Beach (Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m.) and Little River Park in Thornbury (Thursdays at 10 a.m.), and bi-weekly sessions at the Fishway in Thornbury (the next one is Monday, June 19 at 1 p.m.), ensuring flexibility for volunteers to get involved. The full schedule can be found on Georgian Bay Forever’s event page.

In an effort to further engage volunteers and express gratitude for their contributions, Morrison has introduced volunteer prize packs as a new initiative this year. Every volunteer who participates in a cleanup event will be entered into draws for different raffle prizes, all of which have been purchased from local vendors. This collaborative approach not only supports local businesses but also recognizes the indispensable role played by volunteers in the success of the cleanups.

“It’s an opportunity to collaborate with different local vendors in the area and offer appreciation to our volunteers for all the hard work that they do,” said Morriosn. “Without their help, we wouldn’t be able to collect the garbage that we do and have the impact that we have.”

Georgian Bay Forever is also collaborating with local municipalities to secure parking passes for volunteers at paid parking lots, such as Sunset Point and Wasaga Beach. This aims to remove any barriers for volunteers who wish to join the cleanup efforts and ensure their dedication is not hindered by parking fees.

In addition to cleaning up the shoreline, Georgian Bay Forever strives to provide educational resources and raise awareness about environmental issues. At each cleanup location, the organization sets up a booth where they distribute newsletters, brochures, and flyers, facilitating further education and fostering a stronger connection to the environment.

They also ensure that all necessary resources, such as gloves, trash pickers, and bags, are readily available for volunteers. Additionally, volunteers have the option to bring their own supplies if they prefer. Safety is a top priority, and the organization is equipped to conduct the cleanups responsibly.

To evaluate the impact of their efforts and monitor pollution trends, Georgian Bay Forever conducts a thorough waste audit using “trash tally sheets.” These sheets record the types and quantities of garbage collected, ranging from coffee cups and cans to cigarette butts. At the end of the season, the organization shares this data with local municipalities, raising awareness about pollution issues within the community.

Recognizing that not everyone can attend daytime cleanups, Morrison encourages interested individuals or groups to contribute to the trash tally database. Whether it’s a scouts group, a family outing, or an individual effort, participants can categorize the items they collect, contributing to the overall understanding of pollution trends in the area.

Volunteers also often extend their participation into family outings, enjoying a day at the beach while actively contributing to the cause.

“Most of our volunteers end up becoming beachgoers,” laughed Morrison. “Make a day out of it, bring your kids.”

Georgian Bay Forever remains committed to its long-term vision of a healthy and thriving Georgian Bay ecosystem. Through funding accredited research, educating the public and government entities, and organizing community initiatives like the shoreline cleanup program, the organization continues to make a significant impact in the preservation of this precious natural resource.

As Morrison concludes, “We can do so much work to educate people and talk about these things going on, but until people get out and experience them, they don’t have a true understanding or appreciation of what is going on. So it’s building that connection to the environment in that way.”

Georgian Bay Forever invites all community members to join their shoreline cleanups, play a vital role in environmental conservation, and foster a deep connection to the stunning beauty of Georgian Bay.

For more information and to register for upcoming shoreline cleanups, visit the Georgian Bay Forever website at www.georgianbayforever.org.

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This story was made possible by our Community Leaders Program partner.

Thank you to Simcoe Building Centre for helping to expand local news coverage in Collingwood. Learn more

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