Photo credit: Caleb Harding and Tara Martin
A beautiful wilderness area near Parksville, known as Little Mountain, has now been returned to its natural pristine state after years of illegal dumping activity, thought to have occurred either because the dumpers didn’t want to pay for proper disposal of their garbage or because they thought it would be exciting to throw something large over a 100-foot cliff.
This accomplishment was not an easy task.
There is only a narrow path to the bottom of the cliff, making it impossible to bring in vehicles to carry out the garbage, which is scattered over a challenging sloped area. The solution was to load the garbage into nets and huge fertilizer bags, have them picked up by helicopter from this remote location at the mountain base, and dropped into a receiving area where sorters prepared the garbage for transport and disposal.
While the clean-up effort has taken three years to complete, the dumping has been going on for much longer, and the origins of this project actually had a Hollywood beginning. Back in 2010, Oscar-winner Adrien Brody starred in a movie about a man who awakens in a wrecked car in the forest at the bottom of a steep ravine with no memory of who he is or how he got there. The movie was “Wrecked” and the filming location was the base of Little Mountain.
However, all was not untouched on this apparently ideal film location, as the crew discovered a mountain of trash that had been tossed from the top and had been accumulating for years, resulting in a vast disgusting mess covering the entire base of Little Mountain. The film crew worked around the trash, but before leaving, they donated their coffee fund money, in the amount of $750, to help with future clean-up.
In 2018, Little Mountain resident, Dr. Jeff Grognet approached the Rotary Club of Parksville with a $750 cheque and a challenge to mobilize resources and take out the trash that was desecrating this previously untouched area of natural wilderness.
Rotarians accepted this challenge, and so began a logistically complex project, masterfully coordinated by Parksville Rotary President, Bill Rawlins and Dr. Grognet, involving an army of volunteers and three separate helicopter lifts that took place between May of 2019 and November of 2021.
Rotary volunteers and Little Mountain residents were soon joined, in the summer of 2019, by the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, who, led by President Steve Nikirk, gave the project a tremendous boost through their energy, enthusiasm, and muscle.
Instrumental to this initiative was Mike Gillen of Kestrel Helicopters, who volunteered his time, expertise, machines, equipment, and staff for all three lifts. Likewise, Sam Bedard of Dave Bedard & Sons provided an excavator, bobcat, and dump truck, all essential for moving, sorting, and garbage disposal at the receiving site.
During three hours of flying time on November 21, a total of 10 1/2 tons of waste was removed …. everything from household appliances to couches, rusted bicycles, car parts, shopping carts, junked electronics, mouldy mattresses, freezers, and even a truck canopy and a hot tub. And the golf balls … there were hundreds of them!
The amount lifted in a single day came to 1 1/2 tons of tires, 5 tons of metal, and 4 tons of assorted garbage. Combined with just under 14 tons from the previous two lifts, the total tally of garbage removed from the mountain base came to approximately 24 1/2 tons of metal, tires, and assorted garbage!
Little Mountain has been given a fresh start through this massive volunteer effort. The next task will be to ensure that it remains that way. This has been a massive project, and we do not want to have to repeat it in another few years’ time. Hopefully, this effort and the public awareness it has created will help to deter future incidences of illegal dumping at Little Mountain and in all local wilderness areas.
Community support extended beyond the mechanics of the actual lift. Parksville’s Arrowsmith Brewery created a special brew entitled “Forest Canopy Brown Ale” for the occasion, with $1 of every pint sold donated to Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and their efforts to keep wilderness areas in their untouched natural state.
As Rotary President, Bill Rawlins passionately asserts, “We live in one of the most beautiful communities in the world. Let’s keep it that way!”