Sixty-four Witless Bay residents banded together for the town’s annual Kinsmen community clean up on Saturday, scouring the ditches, public spaces, beaches, rivers and ponds. Volunteers collected 170 bags of garbage around the community.
“Last year we attempted to establish a Guinness World Record by transforming the 5,632 pounds of garbage we’d collected into the biggest puffin ever made out of garbage,” said Mayor Sébastien Després. “It was a way of reminding everyone of the impact that pollution can have on our waterways and on our nearby bird sanctuary, the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve.”
The reserve is North America's largest colony of Atlantic Puffins. Witless Bay is also home to the Puffin and Petrel Patrol, which rescues stranded puffin chicks and returns them safely to the ocean.
The Town’s Community Enhancement Committee was hoping to outdo last year’s record, but volunteers quickly realized that there was simply not going to be enough garbage to build a giant puffin.
“There’s been a drastic decline in the amount of garbage collected,” said Kinsmen president Howard O’Brien. “Eight years ago, when we had our first annual Kinsmen Community Cleanup, we collected over 400 bags. With even more volunteers this year, we didn’t even get half of that. I guess more and more people are recognizing the impact we can have on the environment.”
Instead of a giant garbage puffin, the volunteers fashioned a happy face from some of the garbage collected.
“I think our happy face says a lot about how we feel about this event,” said O’Brien. “It’s a symbol of the cooperation we’re getting between the business community, our Town Council, our volunteer organizations, and the town’s residents.”
This annual event is sponsored by the Witless Bay Kinsmen, the Town of Witless Bay, Witless Bay Home Hardware, and Tim Hortons.
The cleanup has been integrated into the town’s beautification effort. Witless Bay is one of only two Newfoundland municipalities invited to participate in the 2015 Communities in Bloom national competition. It won the 2014 edition of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador Tidy Towns award.
The town has kicked off this year’s beautification efforts by launching an Adopt-A-Spot program which started during Saturday’s community cleanup. The program invites residents, community groups and businesses to sign up to care for a public space such as a roadway, trail, beach, or park. “It’s really exciting to see such great participation – within a few hours, almost a third of our community’s roads had already been adopted,” said Mayor Després. “We’re already well on our way this season to having a tidy town and a community that’s truly in bloom.”