Signal Hill hikers tire of seeing trash on the trail, start picking it up themselves

·4 min read
Jennifer Cherniwchan said this is a sight she's has seen a lot at the historic site.  (Submitted by Jennifer Cherniwchan - image credit)
Jennifer Cherniwchan said this is a sight she's has seen a lot at the historic site. (Submitted by Jennifer Cherniwchan - image credit)

On a windy April evening, Jennifer and husband Nick Cherniwchan find themselves bent over more often than upright on an evening walk up to Cabot Tower.

"[It's] a little bit disappointing because it's such a beautiful spot and we're so lucky to live here," Nick said.

"[The trash] does take away from that".

The pair moved to Newfoundland and Labrador from Calgary three years ago when Nick took a job in St. John's. With scenic Signal Hill so close their home, they spend a lot of time in and around the trails.

Almost immediately, the two noticed that litter was tarnishing their walks near the historic site.

Rather than sit idly by, they began bringing bags with them and would stop to pick up trash along the way. They say the biggest culprits are fast food coffee cups, dog poop bags, discarded Kleenex and beer cans.

Another problem the pair pointed out is that when the garbage bins fill up, some people seem content to just leave their trash next to it — almost always resulting in it blowing down the hill.

"We could do more," Jennifer said. "We just don't always want to be carrying a bag of trash when we're hiking."

"When we think of bringing family here, we want Signal Hill to be something that we're proud of and something we can show off," said Nick.

The Cherniwchans show off how much trash they picked up in a just a few minutes.
The Cherniwchans show off how much trash they picked up in a just a few minutes. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Parks Canada isn't too pleased with the trash it's seeing on its Newfoundland and Labrador sites either. In March, Park Warden Janelle MacLeod took to Facebook to show off coffee cups she found on the ground in Terra Nova National Park.

A caption for the photo reads: "not only is littering dangerous to wildlife, it's also against the National Park Act and can result in fines."

A spokesperson for the agency said in an email that Signal Hill staff want to remind hikers and walkers to "Leave no Trace" and either dispose of their garbage in the bins provided or pack out everything they pack in.

Like the Cherniwhan's, the agency acknowledges that most people are respectful of its outdoor areas including trails, and dispose of garbage in the bins provided. But there are times when litter can be found in these areas which negatively impacts the natural landscape and the experience for other visitors.

As for the full garbage cans the Cherniwhan's have spotted, Parks Canada says the bins are checked and emptied on a regular basis.

With Winter now over, additional clean up and maintenance is underway at Signal Hill as staff gears up for its season opening.

Park Warden Janelle MacLeod poses for a photo holding garbage she found on the side of the road in Terra Nova National Park.
Park Warden Janelle MacLeod poses for a photo holding garbage she found on the side of the road in Terra Nova National Park.(Parks Canada/Facebook)

But it's not just on Signal Hill, according to the Cherniwchan's.

The couple has seen rubbish along the East Coast Trail as well — hiking the entirety of that trail since they came to the province.

Both admit that while its disappointing to see the trash, they have been inspired by others who cleaning up the garbage as they go.

They wanted to speak up to draw attention to an issue that is often as overlooked as a Tim Hortons cup left behind on the trail.

"Taking ownership as individuals and then doing your part when you see it to just pick it up," said Nick.

"Picking up the odd can, picking up the odd Mary Browns container, Tim Horton's cup, that makes all the difference."

Nick and Jennifer Cherniwchan hope others will follow in their footsteps and collect trash on the trails.
Nick and Jennifer Cherniwchan hope others will follow in their footsteps and collect trash on the trails.(Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

His wife would like to see the park do a little more to help educate the public or even consider levying fines against the offenders.

"I know at the very top, at the start of the North Head trail, there are no signs about 'do your part'," Jennifer said. "Even if they're disposable, don't leave the bags lying around."

Parks Canada said the signs are something the site is considering.

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