Onanole, Erickson students join to protect Clear Lake Courtesy RMNP More than 40 students and teachers from Onanole Elementary School and Erickson Collegiate took part in the third annual Clear Lake Cleanup on Wednesday, Sept. 19, in Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP). Over 150 kg of garbage and recycling was collected this year. The final tally will be available after all the items that were too heavy for the students to retrieve have been picked up by Parks Canada staff over the next couple of weeks. The Clear Lake Cleanup was one of more than 1,600 events held across Canada that made up the 19th annual Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC). For the third year in a row, Students Making a Difference (SMAD), a group of Erickson Collegiate students whose objectives are to make a difference both locally and globally, helped coordinate the cleanup alongside Parks Canada staff. “We strive to aid social justice and environmental causes, while also bringing aware-ness to others,” explained grade 12 student Rebecca Kingdon, president of SMAD. “We were very interested in the Clear Lake Cleanup from the moment we heard about it, wanting to help with such an important task that benefits not only our environment visibly and physically, but also the animals, and visitors that come every year.” SMAD accompanied the Grade 2 to 5 students from Onanole Elementary School and helped explain the environmental impacts of littering to the students while they were out doing the cleanup. They also assisted by taking photos and recording all the litter that was collected. SMAD students are also members of the Lake Group, a group of partners and stake-holders with interests in Clear Lake. At the next Lake Group meeting in October, the students will discuss the data collected at the cleanup and make recommendations based on the results. At Clear Lake this year, as with previous years, smoking related items like cigarette butts are the most commonly picked up type of litter. One bright note was that in re-sponse to these consistently high counts, RMNP installed several cigarette disposal containers in the beach area this summer. The containers were well utilised and the number of cigarette butts collected in the vicinity of these containers was reduced. Smokers are often unaware of the conse-quences of throwing their butts on the ground. When it rains, they float down the storm drains and out into the lake where they pose a threat to fish and other wildlife either when the toxins they contain are released, or when they are mistaken for food and eaten. “The awareness that the cleanup data brings is making way for the improvement of our shorelines,” said Kingdon. “We especially took note of the amount of smoking re-lated debris, and thought that there should be more public awareness about the harsh consequences to the environment they cause, and also think there perhaps needs to be more places to dispose of cigarette butts.” The next most commonly picked up items were food wrappers and beverage contain-ers. The park uses the cleanup information to identify areas with high incidences of litter, and place new garbage and recycling containers in those locations. Some of the stranger items found this year include three picnic tables, a biohazard sign, carpet and a skate guard. RMNP’s Visitor Experience staff are particularly grateful for the return of the picnic tables which had been hauled off into a clearing and used for “social activities”. Interestingly, unlike past years, no underwear was found this year, much to the dismay of some of the students who spend a lot of time speculating about how such articles of clothing can get lost in the first place. The goal of the Clear Lake Cleanup is more than simply cleaning up the shoreline. Groups of volunteer citizen scientists like the students from Erickson and Onanole help the park gather information that is used to try and address the problem of litter at its source.