English Bay. The picture of serenity and pristine natural landscapes, right? Cranes flying gracefully over untouched sandy shores, right? In 1814 perhaps. But flash forward 200 years and the picture is quite different. English Bay, home to millions of discarded cigarette butts, food wrappers, and goodness knows what else (including condoms, tampons, needles, and enough discarded clothing to fill a small wardrobe). Although there are definitely elements of the first image still lingering at the beach, the images of the second one are slowly but surely becoming the norm. And in fact, this is not so surprising, as the City of Vancouver claims English Bay to be their busiest beach.
As a frequent runner of the English Bay seawall and a frequent swimmer of the ocean there and nearby, I knew it was looking a little worse for wear. My fearless partner in environmental crime, Jess, and I, had been talking about doing a shoreline cleanup for a little over a year. So, it seemed like the perfect solution to pair the two together. The equation went something like this:
1 beautiful yet littered beach + 2 environmental crusaders X a strong desire to show our appreciation to Mother Nature for granting us with such a beautiful space = The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.
But, before I tell you about our wonderful cleanup, I thought I would give you a little bit of a background on English Bay (our chosen shoreline to clean up) and on the dire straits of shorelines around the world. Learning is fun! Here goes:
1862 - John Morton bought English Bay and the entire area that is now the West End, for $550, and decided it was too beautiful not to share.
1887 - After many years of struggling to sell his land (people were favouring the busier business areas of Gastown and Yaletown), buyers finally started to see potential here, and the West End became an elite neighbourhood for fancy-pants high society folk to gather. Also, this year, the name "West End" was coined by the Vancouver school board when they built West End Elementary School.
also 1887 - A.E.B. Davie became the Premiere of B.C. He was Vancouver's first homosexual politician - hence the naming of Davie St and the start of what is still Canada's largest gay community (right on Vancouver!)
1892 - Mr. Rogers (of Rogers Sugar) built his mansion on Davie and Nicola. He died a few years later, but the mansion still stands (remember where Macaroni Grill used to be?)
1893 - English Bay was established, and given the name Ayyulshun (meaning "soft under foot"), by local First Nations people. (The name English Bay is in reference to the meeting of the British Captain Vancouver and the Spanish Captain Galiano there in 1792).
1895(ish) - "Old Black Joe" Fortes, a man from Barbados, became a lifegaurd and long lasting figure in the English Bay community. He taught hundreds of kids how to swim, and it is said, also saved hundreds of lives in the water. He lived on the beach, swam almost year round, and drank "medicine" every day - a cup of salt water from the ocean.
1898 - Finally able to fulfill its name, sand was added to English Bay beach. People still had to hike through rugged bushes and trails to reach the water. The beach was divided in two by a large rock - one side for men and the other for women.
1900 - A bathhouse was built at the beach. No more changing/peeing in the bushes.
1914 - The Vancouver Millionares win the Stanley Cup (beating out the Ottawa Senators) in the then arena on Denman St. The arena burned down in 1936. Nothing to do with English Bay exactly, but cool right?
1930 - The concrete bathhouse (which still stands - we've all stood in line to use those bathrooms on fireworks nights) was built
1930's - The secret was out. The middle class wanted in to the beautiful West End, thus pushing the fancy pantsers out to the new (and current) elite neighbourhood of Shaughnessy (well la-de-da).
1957 - A bylaw was lifted, allowing high-rises to be built in the West End. Thousands of Vancouverites cheered "Hooray!" and the neighbourhood quickly became the most densely populated in Canada.
1973 - Locals began to take pride in their awesome home, and started downsizing, renovating old mansions, and putting parks and public green spaces in throughout the West End.
2009 - Kate Mosley has her first seawall run at English Bay and falls head over heels in love.
2014 - Jess Miles and Kate Mosley decide the beach needs a bit of a tidy, and they arrange the first of many Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanups for the area. Yeah!
Well, there you have it. If you want to read a bit more about English Bay and the West End, look no further than here.
So how did our shoreline cleanup go? Well, I would say it was a great success! All in all, we had about 20 people out. We cleaned up around 10 lbs of garbage, and shared a few cookies, laughs, and beers in the sun while we were at it.
I truly am thankful to the friends and family members (and random strangers walking by) who gave up time on their sunny Saturday to help out with something I am really passionate about. I wish we didn't have to organize shoreline cleanups. I wish people would use that common sense and respect that I know is in their brains somewhere, and put their garbage and recycling where it belongs. Better yet, I wish people would go a step further and bring reusable containers to the beach, quit smoking, and think a little bit about how their actions affect the environment.
I wanted to share with my lovely readers some of the facts and figures behind all this trash in the oceans. But, since I feel that it is really important information to share, and don't want it to get mushed at the bottom of this post, when your interest has waned, I have decided to save that for a part 2.
Before I sign off for this one though, here are some pictures from our lovely day of beach cleaning: