British Columbia

Illegal dumping mars scenic Vancouver Island lookout point

One of the most beautiful lookouts on Vancouver Island is marred by a growing pile of sofas, dishwashers and even a hot tub at the base of its 30-metre cliff.

Despite numerous community clean-ups, sofas, dishwashers, hot tubs and more pile up at bottom of cliff

Among the pile of trash at the base of Little Mountain outside Parksville B.C. is, yes, a hot tub. (Megan Olsen)

If you want to have a good look at Vancouver Island and the surrounding ocean, Little Mountain outside Parksville, B.C. is a perfect spot. Just don't look down at all the garbage.

Local residents say for the past four decades, the site has become better known for illegal dumping.

Residents like Jeff Grognet, who live on Little Mountain Road where the lookout is located, say people routinely drive to the top, carry appliances, furniture and all manner of refuse to edge — and drop it.

'That is a strange way to have fun'

"It's real exciting to go and drop a refrigerator down a 100-foot cliff and see what happens to it at the bottom,"  Grognet said. "That is a strange way to have fun but some people just like doing things like that."

At the bottom of the 30-metre cliff is a pile of smashed-up trash, much of it large household items, including office furniture, fridges, couches, televisions and mattresses. One image even shows what appears to be a hot tub.

Twice, Grognet has organized a clean-up of the site with the local Rotary Club. Volunteers load up massive bags and then arrange to have a helicopter lift them out.

The first clean-up done by Grognet and other volunteers was in 2009. The Rotary Club repeated the effort last month,

Grognet said he was surprised by how much garbage had piled up over the 10-year period.

The edge of the cliff where people routinely illegally dump on Little Mountain near Parksville, B.C. (Dean Stoltz/CHEK News)

Meanwhile, The Regional District of Nanaimo says it supports community efforts to clean the site, and has waived tipping fees at the local dump.

Larry Gardner, the regional district's manager for solid waste services, says the district doesn't have the capacity to do enforcement or clean up the site, which is Crown land. 

In a statement, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development says it's "unfortunate" that people use Little Mountain as an illegal dump.

Under the Environmental Management Act, people can be ticketed $115 for littering, or fined up to $2,000 for illegal dumping. The Land Act provides for fines of up to $20,000 or a jail term not exceeding 60 days for anyone found guilty of illegal dumping.

The bottom of the cliff at Little Mountain in January 2019, before local volunteers cleaned up. (Jeff Grognet)

The ministry says it logs reports of dumping, but did not provide statistics on the number of people caught and fined.

The province says although the site is unsightly, it's not a high priority for attention because it does not pose an immediate environmental threat.

That's frustrating to Megan Olsen who grew up on Vancouver Island and lived in Parksville from 2008 to 2015.

"There's no sense of cleaning it up, if it's just going to continue to happen," Olsen said.

A fence proposed by anti-dumping advocate Megan Olsen for Little Mountain. (Megan Olsen)

She wants to see fencing for the area, which would make it more difficult to dump there. However, neither the region or the province seem interested in limiting access to the site, which is open to the public, she said.

Grognet said years ago, residents erected a fence, but someone tore it down.

Now, the local Rotary group is discussing installing cameras at the top of the ledge to deter dumping.

In the meantime, he hopes people will stop dumping there so the site will become better known for its natural beauty.

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