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Greg Lenko holds a broken bike he found discarded along the Red Hill Valley trail. His annual cleanup effort — The Escarpment Project — takes place April 27.

A little less garbage each year

By Gord Bowes, News staff

The amount of garbage being dumped along the Niagara Escarpment each year is dropping, but there’s still an incredible amount, says the organizer of an annual cleanup.
Thankfully, the number of volunteers willing to pick up that trash is growing, says Greg Lenko.
Lenko started The Escarpment Project as a way return the trails and waterfalls to their pristine condition.
It all started in 2012 with a video showing garbage around the Devil’s Punch Bowl that Lenko posted on YouTube. He received numerous emails about it along with offers to help so he organized a cleanup which has now become an annual event, running the last Sunday in April.
“The success is because of the volunteers that come out,” says Lenko.
This year’s cleanup is taking place on April 27 from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at several places, including Devil’s Punch Bowl, Albion Falls, Red Hill Valley Trail, Kenilworth escarpment stairs and Rail Trail, Chedoke Stairs and Radial Trail, the Wentworth stairs and the Bruce Trail near Sydenham Falls. Volunteers can choose the area where they want to help.
To register, go to escarpmentproject.ca and click on “Get involved.”
Last year, 323 people registered. Lenko had been hoping for 150. This year, he’s hoping for 300.
There’s a particular need for volunteers to clean up the Red Hill Valley Trail.
At the first cleanup, 10 pickup trucks and an overflowing dumpster full of garbage were removed from the Punch Bowl, a unique ribbon waterfall east of Centennial Parkway. Last year, there were five truck loads and the dumpster wasn’t quite full.
“There’s definitely been success,” says Lenko. “When people see you cleaning up, they’re less likely to toss something.”
A car engine and a safe were among the large items removed last year, but the bulk of waste is litter such as coffee cups left by people walking or hiking through the area.
Lenko said about 50 bags of garbage were removed around the Kenilworth stairs last year and 90 per cent of it was plastic water bottles tossed by people too lazy to take their refuse to a garbage can.
“I wish they would take it out — if they bring it in they can certainly carry it right through,” he said.
“People are just too lazy (to take it to a waste container) so they throw it just off the trail so no one sees it.”
Lenko said his initiative has been supported by city councillors Tom Jackson, Scott Duvall, Brad Clark, Sam Merrula, Bob Morrow and Chad Collins. Donations offset the cost of insurance, equipment rentals and a barbecue for volunteers, he said.
A corporate sponsorship would be ideal, said Lenko, now that the cleanup has become an annual event.
He said he’d also like to expand further east and west along the escarpment into Grimsby and Burlington.
You can find The Escarpment Project on Twitter with the handle @EscPrj. Lenko encourages tweeting photos of examples of litter to use the hashtag #escprj.

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