We were approaching Prince George from the south. Our intention was to continue on, as always, to Vanderhoof, for groceries, then to Fraser Lake, and from there to Francois Lake and the Stellako Lodge, where we customarily rent a cabin and watch trout rising in the river below us until there are so many rainbows breaking the surface that I’m compelled to slip into my waders, don my vest, and venture forth hoping to hook the largest of them.
Our daughter was working at the pool and Pizza Hut in Fort St. John that summer. As we cruised along the approach to PG, I sensed that Karen was getting restive.
We don’t have to drive straight through, I said. If you want, we can go North.
Before she said anything, her look made me realize this was our only course.
Soon we were winding through the Pine Pass toward Peace River country. I’d been in Fort St. John a decade earlier, at a time when the teachers there were on strike. The BCTF had flown me in to offer the troops moral support. My recollections were of a prairie town, a small, bucolic place that was as much Alberta as it was B.C.
Things had changed, the Patch had invaded the Prairie. The effect of short-term money – the difference between gold rushes and oil booms being negligible – was palpable.
The old signs opposing the flooding of the beautiful valley of the Peace were still standing
How beautiful, was it? we wondered. In answer to the question we were given directions to a viewpoint that would afford us a premium view of the gorgeous expanse. In those days before Google Earth, we followed the verbal directions to our best recollection and found ourselves at road’s end, on the brink of a great expanse where the land gave way, fell away, to a great cavernous view of a great gaping expanse, a geologically unique chunk of unrealestate that the power mongers had for years been striving to turn into a massive reservoir. It would and should have been breathtaking. But, it was and it wasn’t – our attention distracted by the appliance graveyard at our feet.
Immediately below us, between us and the Peace, was an armada of derelict freezers, old stoves, fridges, washers, and a few rusted car cadavers. There probably wasn’t a more conspicuous locale for disposing of waste, but for some scofflaws, the lure of pushing large appliances and used motor vehicles off precipices is simply too strong to resist.
The people around here are such pigs, was my gut thought, before I stopped myself short.
Clearly, the people that tossed this trash made up a small minority of the area’s populace – or at least that’s the hope. And, how different was this from Terrace where I’ve seen refrigerators and deep freezers thrown over the banks of the lower Copper River, burned car bodies beside the logging roads on all our river valleys?
When I hike along the Skeena below Braun’s Island, I find old cars buried in the river channel and broken chunks of pavement dumped over the bank in a feeble attempt at flood control. At Dutch Valley the banks of the Kalum are strewn with plastic chairs, old propane tanks, and chunks of concrete, all of it in the river’s riparian zone, an area that is part of the commons and protected by the Federal Fisheries Act because such real estate is almost always prime wildlife habitat.
Next to this mess is a field whose owner has built a storage facility that houses a hundred or so recreational units in spite of provincial laws protecting agricultural land from such development. Half a kilometre upstream of the RV barn a road running to the river is strewn with appliances, sofas, rusting bikes, and all kinds of non-degradable plastic detritus. All of this unsightly trash, makeshift rip-rap, and the unsightly storage facility is set in one of the most beautiful parts of the valley, which makes it even more disturbing.
I can’t understand why the regional district and the provincial authorities have allowed the building of the storage facility. The federal government and the Department of Fisheries needs to determine who is responsible for the makeshift diking and take appropriate action to have the area next to it cleaned up.
Meanwhile the illegal dumping could be thwarted by incentives to recycle. Scrap metal and parts are worth money. Fortunes have been made buying and selling the stuff.
People need to know where to take old appliances and know they will get paid something for them. This initiative could and should be backed by disincentives to dumping in the form of steep fines, and jail time if necessary.
Leaving such eyesores unattended to shames us all.