VOLUNTEER WEEK: Retiree keen on beautifying Merritt through trash pick up

·4 min read

Ian Ward is doing his part to keep Merritt tidy and presentable by spending his days picking up trash in unsightly areas, from the downtown core to ‘Gasoline Alley’ at the top of Voght St.

“Well, it started out, I retired,” explained Ward.

“And I had to do some exercising, I got bored, so I started walking. I enjoy walking, it’s one thing I can do still, and I started noticing the garbage, so I started picking a bit of this up.”

It didn’t take long for Ward to realize that this was an ongoing issue within the city, and he started to devote more and more time to the beautifying project. He became such a regular sight cleaning ditches, empty lots, streets, and parking lots that he began to attract some attention from other community members, including city councillor Mike Bhangu, who praised his efforts at a recent council meeting.

“One day I’m picking up garbage and I’ve got a bit of it gathered up in my arms and in a little bag, and I’m going back to the Bench,” said Ward.

“I’m going past the graveyard and this good-looking young girl pulls up next to me in a truck, honks the horn, rolls the window down and gives me one of these big bags that folds out. That good looking girl was my daughter,” Ward joked.

A few days later another citizen pulled up alongside him while he was collecting garbage and handed him a trash picker to make the job easier.

Ward was born and raised in a ranching family in Merritt, where work ethic and pride in your home was instilled in him at a young age.

“You didn’t leave garbage around, that’s not good for the animals,” Ward explained.

A Heavy Equipment Mechanic for his entire career, Ward found himself too busy with work to devote much time to actively volunteering, other than with his children’s sports teams, but he has always felt that keeping our green spaces clean was important.

“I was always so busy with my job… but I always was one if I saw a campsite or something was a mess, I’d pick it up. That’s just the way I was taught. You should leave it in better shape than you found it.”

As far as keeping Ward fit, which had been the idea behind the endeavour when he started, the daily jaunts about town have been quite successful. Walking the hill which leads from the Bench neighbourhood to downtown and beyond each day has been good for Ward’s physical health, a benefit for him as he approaches the age of 70.

“You should see me climb that hill, I can run up that hill!” Ward laughs.

“To climb that hill makes me feel pretty good, because I know there’s a lot of people a lot younger that can’t do that.”

Ward’s tidying up has become a more than full time job, due to the fact that there is just so much work to be done and so many problematic areas in the city.

Seven days a week, Ward gets up early and sets out on his walk, spending the next three to five hours doing clean up around town before heading home to see his grandkids.

Ward hopes others will be bitten by the volunteer bug and get out and do their part to make Merritt attractive.

“I hope what comes out of it is that we start to feel maybe we should do something to make our town look like a town you want to live in,” said Ward.

“I want a town I can pass onto my children, and for others to come through here and think wow, these people care.”

Although he would welcome a helping hand, and encourages others to ‘adopt’ an area of town to keep clean, even if it is just one street or one block, he will continue to spend his time doing his part to keep his hometown clean.

“As long as the legs keep working and the brain keeps functioning, I’ll do what I can,” said Ward.

Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald