Jared Pilon, left, seven-year-old Ryker Pilon and Sheena Pilon participated in the Red Deer River Cleanup in this file photo from the Three Mile Bend area. (Advocate file photo)

Jared Pilon, left, seven-year-old Ryker Pilon and Sheena Pilon participated in the Red Deer River Cleanup in this file photo from the Three Mile Bend area. (Advocate file photo)

About 200 volunteers expected at Red Deer River Cleanup on Saturday

Protecting wildlife and the environment from impacts of human garbage is the aim

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of discarded face masks are expected to be picked up during Saturday’s Red Deer River Clean Up.

Last year, only a small portion of the paper masks that were found along creeks were counted — and the number hit 252. “It was a real minimum,” said Alice Koning, community outreach coordinator for the Kerry Wood Nature Centre.

“This year we’re expecting it will be in the hundreds for sure — if not in the thousands.”

The local litter pickup event, held alongside the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, is anticipated to attract about 200 volunteers — from families to corporate workers, ecological club members to Scouts.

Many parents take their kids on the annual river cleanup as an educational opportunity, added Koning. “Once you spend the afternoon picking up garbage, you know not to litter,” she added, with a chuckle.

Motorists should be aware that some volunteers will be picking up litter close to roadways along the meandering Piper and Waskasoo Creeks and Red Deer River.

The face paper masks they find actually contain plastics and do not degrade easily. Koning said these plastics end up as microplastics that can be consumed by wildlife or fish.

The same goes for cigarette butts. Besides the danger of sparking a fire in the dry conditions. cigarette butts, when left to decompose, also release microplastics from their wrappings. Birds and ducks will eat them, although butts are harmful to their health, said Koning.

She noted wild animals have also become entangled in the plastic loops that wrap six-packs of beer, and in the handles of plastic bags and other garbage.

Volunteers who want to help with the cleanup are asked to drop by the Kerry Wood Nature Centre between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to get an assigned route. The centre will provide disposable gloves (although people can bring their own), some tong-like “garbage grabbers,” and garbage collection bags — as well as separate bags for recyclables.

Koning hopes volunteers will enjoy the opportunity to meet like-minded people, give back to the community, and prevent harmful litter from entering waterways.

Volunteers returning to the Kerry Wood Nature Centre could win a prize in a 3 p.m. raffle draw.

For more information, please visit www.waskasoopark.ca/kerry-wood-nature-centre/green-deer#riverCleanups.

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