118 kg of garbage in 3 hours: How residents are cleaning up the Humber Bay Park pond

The community group, Friends of Humber Bay Park, cleaned up 260 pounds of garbage from their local stormwater pond on Saturday.

Community group says trash is a common problem because of littering, construction

David Creelman, member of the Friends of Humber Bay Park, collects garbage from a local stormwater pond as part of a cleanup project. (Submitted by Irene Jardine)

In just three hours on Saturday morning, residents of Humber Bay Park cleared their local pond of hundreds of cigarette butts, plastic bottles, styrofoam and a single cross-country ski.

"It blows in and it's thrown in. It's terrible," said Irene Jardine, chair of the Friends of Humber Bay Park.

The community group, Friends of Humber Bay Park, organizes cleanups several times a year to pick up garbage that found its way into the pond or in the park. On Saturday morning, the group collected more than 118 kilograms of garbage from the pond, said Jardine.

The pond holds water that runs off from the streets when it rains and funnels it into Lake Ontario. It serves as a home to ducks, fish, turtles and the occasional blue heron.

"You don't want to see [the garbage] there, but you're happy that you're able to get it out," said Joanna Gardner, co-ordinator of watershed events at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

Joanna Gardner, with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, and Josip Bosnjak, member of Friends of Humber Bay Park, fish garbage out of the pond that's inhabited by birds, fish and turtles. (Submitted by Irene Jardine)

Gardner, who was at Humber Bay Park on Saturday, said she could really see the difference in the pond from before the cleanup and after.

"There's something so gratifying when you see all of this litter in a natural area and then after you've gone through and picked it up, you can see what a difference you've made," said Gardner.

Jardine said much of what turns up in the lake comes from people leaving behind garbage as they visit the park, and they can see a spike of litter after weekends. Then there's garbage that floats in with the stormwater, which Toronto has been seeing a lot more of recently.

David Creelman measures the weight of a bag of garbage he and the others from Friends of Humber Bay Park collected from their local pond. (Michael Cole/CBC)

There are also concerns about garbage from construction that's happening nearby.

"Despite being repeatedly asked, very little effort has been made to clean up the mess that descends into the park," said David Creelman, a member of the Friends of Humber Bay Park who was at the cleanup this weekend.

The concern with the construction is largely the styrofoam that makes its way into the pond. Styrofoam degrades quite quickly in water, breaking up into small pieces that gets caught in the algae on the surface of the water. Creelman said the fish, birds and turtles can think it's food.

This turtle inhabits the stormwater pond in Humber Bay Park, where local residents are removing the garbage found in it. (Submitted by Irene Jardine)

The group gets help from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, which provides equipment and organizational help for many of their events.

"To find someone who's willing to volunteer three hours of their time on this nice Saturday morning, you don't always get them," said Gardner.

"They keep us going. They make what we do worthwhile."

Irene Jardine said this resident, Song Liu, saw what the group was doing at Humber Bay Park, grabbed some gloves and started helping. (Submitted by Irene Jardine)

The group has a spring and fall cleanup every year, and this spring, Jardine said they collected almost 590 kilograms of garbage.

The task can sometimes feel unending, said Jardine, where they'll clean up one week and garbage will be back the next. But that doesn't dampen her spirits.

"You can't wait for the city to do it. It just wouldn't get done, there aren't enough people," said Jardine.

She says the group wants to "just go about cleaning up the park and keeping it as nice as possible for the people and the animals."