Vernon hiker picking up one piece of litter a day; challenges others to do the same | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon hiker picking up one piece of litter a day; challenges others to do the same

Ryan Van Veen of Vernon pictured enjoying a waterfall in Wells Gray Provincial Park is passionate about looking after backcountry spaces.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Ryan Van Veen

Ryan Van Veen is a construction worker in Vernon who spends a lot of time exploring the great outdoors in the Thompson-Okanagan region.

Disturbed by the amount of trash piling up on hiking trails he's hoping others will join the movement that he calls the 1/365 A Day Challenge, picking up one piece of garbage every day for the rest of the year.

“It’s nothing crazy, it’s nothing big, but it’s something the average person can do to make an impact, anywhere, not just the backcountry,” Van Veen said.

He's been filling his backpack with garbage and carrying it out of the backcountry for years. He also helps with cleanups with the Okanagan Forest Task Force, a group that regularly patrols the woods around Kelowna and cleans up tonnes of garbage and abandoned vehicles.

There's always been a lot of litter on the trails, he said, but he's is seeing an increasing amount of mess made by homeless people, typically on the first few kilometres of main trail systems.

“Overall litter is an ongoing problem, the garbage has always been there,” Van Veen said. “We’ve noticed in the valley you’re getting more squatters camps, that’s the biggest shift as homes are more expensive and people are priced out.

“We want to keep these outdoor spaces pristine. We don’t want our backcountry areas to get shut down. You keep throwing stuff in the backcountry and one solution is to start gating and blocking access to these areas.”

This garbage was picked up on a forest service road near Lumby.
This garbage was picked up on a forest service road near Lumby.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Ryan Van Veen

There are a lot of people already stopping to pick up litter in neighbourhoods and on trails, he said. He has a friend who scuba dives to clean up local lakes.

“There are inspiring people everywhere, lots of people are picking up garbage,” Van Veen said. “It would be awesome if the awareness got out enough to stop people from littering but I doubt it’ll ever change.”

Van Veen started doing the 1/365 A Day Challenge himself earlier this week and posted the initiative on social media in hopes of inspiring others, and to help draw awareness to the issues. 

“Together we could literally pick up hundreds of thousands of pieces of garbage a day in this province.”

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