Decades of senseless littering have left a hazardous mess at the bottom of Hope’s most popular swimming lake: Lake of the Woods or Schkam Lake, a few kilometres north of Hope on Highway #1.
The rocks at the south end of the lake have been a popular spot for sunbathers and partiers since at least the 1960s and while some have packed out what they packed in, it’s clear that many have not — choosing to toss their beverage cans, bottles and other garbage into the lake.
While an ocean can grind down broken glass, a lake has no way of mitigating the danger, so it sits there, waiting for an unsuspecting swimmer to step on it.
There’s hope, though, as a group of concerned citizens has taken on the challenge of removing what hundreds of other people should have been doing themselves.
Hope resident, Janet Rigby said she was at a BC Parks volunteer luncheon last year and was seated at a table with some scuba divers. She was there as a member of Hope’s Black Bear Committee and the divers were invited as a thank you for the work they do cleaning up waterways in the Lower Mainland.
“I asked them if they’d like to do a dive in Hope — and they came up twice last year, once for Lake of the Woods and once for Kawkawa Lake,” said Rigby. “They usually just ask for their gas money to be covered.”
The BC Diver’s Association also throws in free air tank refilling for the volunteers, said Rigby.
The scuba group, led by Henry Wang of North Vancouver, returned for their second day on ‘The Rocks” on Saturday, May 25, with six divers. Local volunteers came armed with support kayaks and a hearty lunch.
“We pulled the divers over to the spot with our kayaks,” said Rigby. “It conserves their air supply, but it was a lot of extra drag for us.
“Henry had a gadget like a little torpedo that would pull him over — and he could bring back trash with it,” said Rigby.
As for the submerged trash, Rigby said, “There’s a mother lode out there. They only made a dent in it, so they’ll have to come back again.
“Henry said the broken glass was in fairly shallow water and he was surprised people hadn’t been getting injured,” she added.
The haul of cans and unbroken bottles brought in $22.75 at the Hope bottle depot. Divers had to carefully pick up the broken glass and bring it back to the main beach, where it was added to the car tires and other treasures that were hauled away by Emil Anderson road maintenance staff.
“The weirdest thing they brought up was a toilet, like you’d see in a BC Parks outhouse,” said Rigby.
It may be next year before the divers get back to the lake for another stage of clean-up. In the meantime, Rigby reminds lake users: “You pack it in, you pack it out.”