Ottawa

Wakefield residents fed up with flotillas of drunk, littering visitors on river

Residents of Wakefield, Que., are increasingly fed up with visitors floating down the Gatineau River drunk and leaving garbage in their wake.

People have been leaving inflatable pool toys, beer cans on shoreline

Inflatable unicorns and other cheap plastic toys are being left by visitors along the Gatineau River in Wakefield, Que. (Andrée Grand-Maître)

Residents of Wakefield, Que., are increasingly fed up with visitors floating down the Gatineau River drunk and leaving garbage in their wake.

Andrée Grand-Maître said she estimates that as many as 100 people floated down the river during the August long weekend, leaving a trail of beer cans and inflatable pool toys behind them.

"We recognize that some people are very responsible — it's not everyone. But it is at an increasing rate that we are having to clean up the shores of our river," she told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning in a recent interview.

Residents of Wakefield, Que. say floating parties like these leave empty beer cans and abandoned pool floats in their wake. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Grand-Maître suspects people are being blown off their intended courses and deciding to leave their trash behind instead of carrying it further with them.

Rita Jain, president of the non-profit group Friends of the Gatineau River, said she's concerned about wildlife being affected by cheap, plastic inflatable toys being left on the shoreline.

"I guess the price [of inflatable toys] is getting cheaper and they're being treated as disposable," Jain said.

Discarded boxes for inflatable toys litter the shoreline of the Gatineau River in Wakefield. (Andrée Grand-Maître)

The Gatineau River near Wakefield appeared in a list on the Red Bull website of the "top five places to float this summer," touting Gatineau Park and the Wakefield Bridge as worthy sights to see while floating.

"Upon reaching the infamous Wakefield Bridge, known by the locals to be the optimal summer chill spot, disembark and enjoy a couple cold ones in the town of Wakefield," the site reads.

More than litter

If Wakefield had more public access docks with garbage cans and safety notices, Jain said they might be able to avoid most of the issues.

"The fact is we don't have the infrastructure," Jain said.

But the problem doesn't stop with the litter, according to Grand-Maître.

Residents say visitors are floating down the Gatineau on cheap inflatable pool toys while drinking, and leaving behind their garbage. 6:49

Floaters often end up trespassing and are illegally parking on the side of rural roads.

"Often those [roads] are to allow emergency vehicles through," she said.

Both Grand-Maître and Jain said they want to find a long-term solution, but in the meantime they're asking anyone who sees illegal activity to call the police.

Visitors are also leaving garbage such as beer cans along the shorelines of the Gatineau River. (Andrée Grand-Maître)

With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning

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