Resident helps clean up C-K’s rivers

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Chatham-Kent’s Sally Joyce searches for trash along the banks of the Sydenham River, while towing a bag of plastic items she has already retrieved. The local woman had been paddling around our waterways in recent weeks looking to remove refuse. (Sandy Baird/Special to The Voice)

By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative

A Chatham-Kent resident is adding conservation to her daily recreation.

Kayaker Sally Joyce has been cleaning up the rivers, hauling laundry bags full of garbage.

“I have always had deep respect for the natural environment. Even when I was a child, whenever I found creatures who died, I gave them a proper burial. Nature is a place I have gone to for my own peace of mind,” she said.

Joyce has seen egrets, Canada geese, green herons, and a lot of turtles around the local waters.

“So we’ve got to get (litter) out of the water, get it out of their habitat. If we live in harmony with them, they will stay around,” she said.

Joyce added she doesn’t know the scale of the litter problem in Chatham-Kent’s rivers but whenever she kayaks, can see plastic and garbage culminating everywhere along the shorelines.

She said it only takes 30 minutes to fill up one of her laundry bags, and she doesn’t have to paddle that far to find the garbage.

“It mainly gathers everywhere, especially where people think is a good hiding spot for their garbage,” she said.

Just south of Baseline Bridge in Wallaceburg, there is a lagoon by the dog park where Joyce has noticed some wildlife is trying to rehabilitate. However, they share their home with single-use plastic water bottles and lighters. The rest is empty antifreeze or windshield washer canteens, pails of needles and lots of Styrofoam.

Plastic has killed some local turtles before and Styrofoam looks very enticing to creatures seeking out food, according to Joyce.

“My message to people would be to think before you buy. Do you need to buy that object with that much packaging? Could you have slowed down in the morning and filled a reusable bottle? We need to be responsible with our waste because waste kills.”

Joyce’s initiative had an impact on at least one Wallaceburg resident. Sandy Baird was the one who spotted Joyce cleaning the Sydenham River and decided to snap some pictures and meet her in person to say thank you.

“Not only is she giving back to the community, but she is preserving the river for all of us to use,” he said

Baird is also a kayaker who goes out with six or seven individuals every day to enjoy the waters.

He said since the COVID-19 lockdown, sales of kayaks and residents out on the waters have gone through the roof.

“So we need to provide for the rivers because they are clearly providing so much for us,” Baird said.

Joyce studied Environmental Studies at the University of Waterloo. Currently, she hosts workshops on connecting with nature, as well as writes and paints using inspiration from her outdoor endeavours.

She was born and raised in Chatham-Kent and her clean-up initiative is not just about tidying up the rivers. She is using her efforts to educate people and inspire them with ways to work on the outside world.

“Canada is a beautiful country with so many natural beautiful places. We should enjoy them and not harm them in any way,” she said.

Joyce doesn’t do her clean-ups on a regularly scheduled basis. She is however, hoping to get some sponsorships so she can organize an annual clean up. In the meantime, she plans to take her kids down to Rondeau Bay to restore the area and plant some trees.

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