As a kid growing up in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Tim Balasiuk remembers the local Heifetz family fondly. He says they started an eco-fibre company, and preached all things green.
“There’s a picture of me at 12 years old at their plant-a-tree, get-a-tree Earth Day event at Simcoe Park.”
He credits the Heifetz’s strength in their beliefs for his own passion for the environment — a passion which led to a sense of responsibility. “I remember that stuff from when I was young, but I have found that since then these things have been overlooked,” he says.
When he started Paddle Niagara six years ago, Balasiuk spent a lot of time at the water’s edge. Unable to ignore the amount of waste washing up on our beaches, he decided to do something about it. He pulled together a team of friends, and they collected shorefront garbage, mainly from near the first hole of the local golf course, he says.
They continued to do this annually, relatively unofficially. Then two years ago, Balasiuk says he was scoping out the beach at Queen’s Royal Park, thinking about where he and his friends might start their annual cleanup, when he stumbled upon a sign that read, “Cleanup in progress, feel free to join.” He learned the group was led by the Toronto-based group A Greener Future, as part of their many-stop “around the lake” endeavour. “I joined in, and then I thanked them on Twitter — and that started a relationship.”
Balasiuk decided to partner with AGF, with a “better together” viewpoint. “We collaborated; it just made sense,” he says.
He praises the young company, impressed by the founder’s dedication and success. “They sort, recycle and catalogue everything that gets collected,” he says. According to Balasiuk, last year — the first year of the collaboration — more than 50 volunteers turned up to pick up. “We’ve found everything from bicycles to car parts, even old rebar from old footings and moorings.”
While many families climbed the rocks at Queen’s Royal Park, pulling dozens of water bottles, straws, and cigarette butts from the spaces between the stones, Balasiuk and his friends went out in a “tinny” — an aluminum boat the kayaker calls his “dirt bike of the river.”
They collected trash from further along the shoreline, along the golf course and into Niagara Shores Park, returning with the boat fully loaded.
AGF provides all of the equipment necessary: gloves, mechanical pickers, and bags. This year’s cleanup will take place on Sunday May 5, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Balasiuk encourages families to participate, and says, “everyone will know where to go,” after the 15-minute orientation talk at the beginning.
“Bring your boat, we’ll find you a spot,” says Balasiuk about anyone who might want to participate on the water. “And if you have the gumption to go pick up along the shoreline further along, contact us and we’ll arrange to bring it back to Queen’s Royal Park,” he says, allowing that some people may have alternative areas on which they’d like to focus.
“If anyone doesn’t want to come to Queen’s Royal park but wants to go to Niagara Shores or another public property, contact us and we’ll come and find you on the water at about 12:30.” He also includes private waterfront property in his offer. Balasiuk can be reached at 905-401-7879.
Follow Paddle Niagara and A Greener Future on social media to watch the progress and learn more about the process.