Google "where to camp in paradise" and you'll soon discover Kennedy Lake on Vancouver Island.
The large lake is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, mushroom-pickers and people who camp there long term because they can't afford a place to live in nearby Tofino and Ucluelet.
But one downside of its popularity recently came to light on social media, where users posted pictures of its pristine shores and lakeside trails fouled by trash and illegal dumping.
After talking about the images over a few beers recently, Ucluelet resident Andrew Horne and his friend Jay Durante felt compelled to take action.
"A lot of people go there to dump all their garbage and a lot of people… camp and leave all their trash behind," Horne said. "There's been beds, there's been hunks of metal, everyday household garbage."
Durante suggested they should clean up the trash sometime.
"I said sure, let's do it, and we made a Facebook event on it," Horne said.
Horne expected to just round up "a bunch of our buddies," perhaps 10 or 15 people, to help them haul junk out of the woods.
So the two friends were surprised when their casual plan took off, with 110 people showing an interest for the Locals Love the Lake cleanup, which is scheduled for this Saturday, Jan. 20.
Local businesses have rallied to the cause, as well. Horne said Petro Canada will supply morning coffee before the cleanup, while the Central Westcoast Forest Society will send volunteers T-shirts, hats and gloves.
Wild weather could cause delay
As high winds and waves pounded the West Coast on Thursday, Horne and other participants debated whether the risk of falling branches in the forest should call for a postponement.
Delayed or not, Horne expressed optimism that this could be the last full-on community cleanup that is needed around Kennedy Lake.
There are plans to improve signage and patrols of the area by the district and local First Nation, while efforts to increase affordable housing in the region should lead to fewer long-term campers.
"It's been particularly bad with the housing crisis in Ucluelet and Tofino lately, that people are pretty much forced to camp if they want to come and live and work out in the area," Horne said.