Retiree has become a local celebrity in Merritt for cleaning up the city | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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Kamloops News

Retiree has become a local celebrity in Merritt for cleaning up the city

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A recently retired man who spends his days cleaning up the City of Merritt is wondering what it will take to inspire businesses and residents to do the same.

Ian Ward was becoming bored with his time after retiring last year at the age of 70. He found his call last March while he was about to hike a trail off of Juniper Drive, known locally as ‘Graveyard Road.’

“A vehicle pulled up beside me and the young lady driver passed me a bag,” he recalled. “She said if you’re going to be out hiking you might as well be useful — start picking up the garbage. This beautiful woman just happened to be my own daughter Crystal.”

And his efforts have branched out beyond the local trails. Despite living more than 25 kilometres away in the Upper Nicola area, Ward is regularly spotted picking up litter and debris all around Merritt.

The most interesting item he said he stumbled across has been an entire DUI kit registered to the RCMP, which he returned to the cop shop.

“The Staff Sergeant and I had a good laugh over that one,” he said.

READ MORE: Merritt man shares stories on podcast about search for Sasquatch

He finds it sad and dangerous how many needles he finds near children's playgrounds.

“The people who make these decisions need to think long and hard about what could or might happen.”

Ward hopes his efforts will encourage local businesses and other residents to also get out and beautify the city.

“History does show us just what can be the dreaded result of doing nothing or to little – disease and environmental damage being just a few.”

It's important for people to spend time cleaning up their community no matter where they live, he said, citing Kamloops as a city that needs improvement. 

Ward said he plans to continue doing it as long as we can, weather permitting. But even in the thick of winter he still plans on being altruistic.

“When the snow starts to take over, I have been granted the use of my grandson’s quad to do some snow removal,” he said.

READ MORE: Vernon woman acknowledged for nearly 30 years of picking up litter

To ensure Ward's efforts don't end up as a thankless task, a GoFundMe campaign has been launched by Mike Bhangu, a Merritt city councillor.

“Ian Ward is a local hero,” Bhangu said. “He doesn’t ask for anything in return, he does this to help make Merritt one of the cleanest cities around.”

In Merritt and beyond, Bhangu feels like there is a widening gap between residents and their communities. 

"Having to do the nine-to-five grind to pay the bills – folks have a tendency to get caught up in their own sphere, and rightly so."

But people like Ward, who contribute just for the sake of making the outdoors even nicer, help to reverse that trend. 

"I think Ian is inspiring others, he's making it okay to take care of the community," said Bhangu.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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