Changing the Landscape, One Bag at a Time: Meeting Erin

Erin, of the City of Calgary, came to my place on Wednesday and dropped off some supplies, as well as officially registered me as crew leader for my volunteer position at Frank’s Flats.  I will be receiving support now, from the city, where the maintenance of this park land is concerned.  Since the city crew came out, I’ve been able to keep the park in good shape, one bag full of litter every single day.  It will never be pristine, given the public’s casual disregard for the environment, but at the very least, I am able to keep most of the garbage from making its way to the pond.  One area I am unable to maintain edges on the slope from the sports fields and Bishop O’Byrne high school.  There are huge ant’s nests in that section and I’m sporting bites again after trying to pick litter in that area.  I told Erin that I’m unable to go in there, even with my rubber boots on.

P1100961A few words to the wind…

“To those of you who play football and soccer on the fields and those of you who are spectators:  you need to learn that there is a consequence for the world when you pitch your plastic slurpee cups and straws and your Tim Horton’s latte cups down onto the ground.  What do you suppose is happening with those?  Do you even think?  This has been a week of Lucky Beer at the pond.  Tin cans have been pitched the entire perimeter.  But don’t fret guys…I’ve got your backs!  I wish that you might observe the animal and bird life that makes its home in this very same environment.  I wish you could see the number of different species that depend on this particular wetlands area.  When you look into my eyes as you walk past me, do not look at me as though I am a marginalized person.  Know that I am educated.  Know that I am a steward.  Know that my mission is NOT hopeless, but hopeful.

To those parents who have tail gate parties on the south end of South Fish Creek Recreational Center, while your kids are playing games and practicing inside, please walk the twenty meters to the garbage dispenser to ditch your chip bags, your Tim Horton’s coffee cups and your beer cans.

To those dog owners who run to your car with your dog when I ask if you will pick up your own dog poop, why not walk down the hill instead, to pick up?

If you wish to join me in this mission,  please take a small container when you go for your walk and stoop down to pick up the plastics and packaging that you find along the way, even if it is just a small bit, it will make a difference.  Find a place in your own neighbourhood and become a steward of that place.  Make it your own.”


Changing the Landscape: One Bag At a Time

Frank's FlatsIt’s official.  The City of Calgary has determined that Frank’s Flats, this year, is city parkland and I now have their support with the crud that mounts up at the location due to the user groups that are just a little irresponsible!  Yeah!  Justin Brown assured me that I would have help with the spring clean-up and he followed through, sending out a team that scoured the slopes, much quicker than I could possibly do ONE BAG AT A TIME.  So, now it is for me to maintain the park and hopefully solicit some support from other like-minded individuals in the area.

Nature is at its finest in this area, even when it is filthy.  The ground squirrels pull the plastics into their nests, not comprehending that this is human waste; but they adapt to the function of such plastics and paper.  Even on the nesting platform being used by Osprey, there is a huge piece of plastic that bats in the wind.  I am amused watching the activity on this platform and watched the grand predator try for over an hour to chase a Canadian goose off of the platform.  When I left the park that evening, the goose was continuing to fight for the nest in the sky, neck outstretched at each nose dive from the beautiful falcon.  This went well into the next day, but finally two days later, the goose had succumbed to the stubborn bird.  Please see fantastic images capturing this event on the Birds Calgary blog.  Now it is fun to watch the male bringing home the catch of the day routinely.

As sun was setting one evening, I watched six white swans fly overhead.  The muskrats are back and ducks of every variety are nesting.  A coyote who was guarding a spot under  the evergreens has finally disappeared, likely pressured out by all of the human presence and back onto the wilderness corridor on the other side of the fence.

Frank’s Flats is a beautiful spot for nature lovers to watch wildlife at its best.  I want this place to be safe and solicit the continued support of the City of Calgary, Bishop O’Byrne high school, South Fish Creek Recreational Center, Shawnessy Library and the various retail stores (Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Tim Hortons, Wendy’s, Jugo Juice) in the stewardship of this land.

I encourage my readers to take some responsibility for stewardship of your own surroundings.  Teach your children by being a living example of how to care for other species.


Saying Good-Bye to Frank’s Flats: Canada Wide Pitch-in Week

I celebrated my experience of stewardship for one piece of the landscape with a small team of volunteers on Saturday afternoon.  We participated in the Pitch-in, a Clean Sweep that was happening right across Canada!  Here are photos of paricipants in Dryden, Ontario; Lacombe, Alberta; Hanna, Alberta and if you take a google on the information highway, you will see that participants worked this past week in every province and territory to change their landscape and do a Clean Sweep!  I feel very proud of my team for their efforts and their support.

We went out on Saturday morning, after an orientation around my feast table at home.

A hearty breakfast served, with gratitude.

We were granted beautiful weather and except for a section of property that was swamped by two days of rain, we were able to do a clean-sweep of Bishop O’Byrne highschool’s slope and a quick pick up on the flats.  We were witness to the mating dances/songs of Merganser Ducks on the water, as well as enjoyed this spring’s first siting of a heron in flight.  It was a truly wonderful time.

From the boundary of ‘my landscape’, looking down at a couple of members of team members.

Here are a couple of team members on the flats.  I felt so proud and happy.  After all of these months of work on this site, it was nice to have the company of others and to hear them saying the things that I had been saying in my head every single day.

Thank you, team!

There were some interesting finds…not much that I hadn’t found before.  In total yesterday, five lighters.  A discus.  Many granola bar wrappers.  I managed to haul another large piece of foam insulation out of the pond’s edge.

A Great group!

It was rewarding having others share the efforts because at the conclusion of a set amount of time, we had six bags of litter instead of one!  Whoot!  Whoot!  There’s rarely a photo opportunity where claymation-master, Kristen, doesn’t take the chance to make a face!  That’s her on the left.


And so, the Changing the Landscape: One Bag At a Time comes to a close.  I have my Drive By Shootings (filming) project in the works and still wish to contact the CPR regarding their position on garbage alongside their tracks…and apart from that, I’m going to be hitting the paint brushes…tending to the internal landscape for awhile.  I’ve learned so much by being so completely ‘in touch’ with a small part of our environment.  I hope that there will be many more stewards of Frank’s Flats in the future and that while they enjoy this space and spend time observing nature,  they will not take any of its beauty for granted.

Throwing in the towel AND TWO RUBBER GLOVES!

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out. Author Unknown

Changing the Landscape: One Bag At a Time


April 23, 2012 4:30 p.m. Weather: 26 degrees, sunshine, cloud, terrific wind.  Saturday, this week, marks the end of my stewardship of this particular location, Frank’s Flats, edging on South Fish Creek Recreational Association.  This afternoon was a spectacular time for heading over to the flats to case out the status of the park for my Canada-Wide Pitch-In team who will be coming out with me to celebrate my last pickin’.

Boxes: Everywhere!

As I approached on foot, I was devastated by the  absolute wreck of the slopes…strewn with empty pizza boxes and Booster Juice product boxes.  It took me multiple trips up and down the hill to retrieve all of the cardboard that evidently had been chucked while a group was in party mode.

And MORE Boxes!

It appears to me that there was some involvement with Booster Juice,  and I’m wondering if they found any of their cartons of product to be missing on one of their recent deliveries.

Twenty Large Booster Juice Cartons


Reflections on a Changed Landscape

Clouds Gathering to the East

April 19, 2012 4:30 p.m. Weather 12 degrees, some wind, intermittent cloud.  Findings: The Same: Again and Again  Now it is a matter of maintaining the park area.  I learned from the orientation that now the birds are settling in near the shores and that if I see any flushing at all from the ducks/geese out from under the cattails and other vegetation, then it wouldn’t be right to disturb their space, so I’m not pulling plastics out of the pond anymore.  I spent an awesome walk, reflecting and just enjoying the outdoors.  Max spent much of the time on leash as he LOVES the water!


The desire to write grows with writing. Desiderius Erasmus

Who Sat on That Lawn Mower? Changing the Landscape: One Bag At a Time

April 17, 2012 9:30 a.m.  Weather: 3 degrees, chilly and grey.  I could have cried this morning when I drove over to the plot of land that edges the Shawnessy Home Depot.  It had been mowed.  No team had been assigned to pick the plastics and debris while the pieces were intact.  Patricia of the Escalation Department of the Home Depot,  in Atlanta, Georgia had informed me that the plot had been mowed…but yes, readers, you guessed it…they don’t know WHO mowed it.  I can’t imagine how the individual felt who had to sit on that mower and watch such a large amount of plastic be ripped apart…knowing full well, it would end up blowing into the pond across the road or littering miles of land to the south.  I spent a full hour picking up ripped pieces of plastic…materials that only days ago, were bags, boxes and packages.  These had blown from the road’s edge all the way down onto the slopes.

A trail of shredded plastic everywhere.

I was broken-hearted.  Whoever is responsible for this expedient ‘fix’, has had a negative effect on the surrounding area; environment AND wildlife.  Later, I will post the quantity of material specific to the mowed yard, collected on this one trip.

This is how the landscape has evolved…mowing over plastics and litter.

This film…the day I reported to Home Depot, my concerns for the surrounding environment.

This film…taken today.

It’s interesting that, in fact, plastics break down…but they just become smaller and smaller pieces.  If you can’t see the mess, you can pretend that it’s NOT there!  To prove a point, “Out of Sight/Out of Mind”, I’m posting a single photograph, without appropriate citation. I found it here.

Alberta Tar Sands/ Oil Sands

If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it. Tennessee Williams

This is NOT my land!

I grew up with stories and histories where nation upon nation claimed, sometimes begged, “This IS MY LAND!”  When you think of it, this is at the crux of most disputes/wars that have plagued every nation under GOD for eons.  When it was about money or religion…it was really about the metaphor for everything on this planet…THE LAND. Recently, a new challenge strikes at the heart of this land as we know it in Canada; the negotiations, challenges, strong opinions around the Keystone Pipeline.   And turn your eyes toward the absolute destruction of LAND in Syria!  What is this about…that one nation/culture continue to reek havoc on another, everywhere?  This photo: REUTERS/George Orfalian featured in the National Post.

REUTERS/George Orfalian

As I contemplate my ten year plan (I’ve always informally had one of these floating in the back of my mind and I seem to be facing fewer and fewer of these.), thoughts of my wee piece of property and what this might mean for my children, come to mind.  We’re funny people, aren’t we?  Investing so much of our lives and work in owning a piece of land? a house? When really, isn’t it an illusion of power/control?  Were any of us really intended to own the land?  Or were we meant to share it?

I’m rambling this morning.  I’ve got my coffee on, after waking at five a.m.  and ringing again and again in my mind are the words I heard yesterday.  “This ISN’T our land!”

I heard from Patricia of the Home Depot Escalation Department in Atlanta, Georgia yesterday.  My phone call was taped for quality assurance, so I will relay this conversation as a paraphrase, the gist of the conversation that we shared.  The phone call was in reference to this piece of land.

Patricia agrees with me, wholeheartedly, that this is an eye sore.  Apparently, since lodging my complaint with her CEO, Frank Blake, Patricia has been assigned this particular ESCALATION.  The tone of her phone call, however, was about her research into WHO OWNS THE LAND…not about the potential for stewardship.  She told me how there was no way that the store associates could be used for clearing up the litter that had accumulated on this land edging within one foot and covering one of the two staff picnic tables on their property.  She informed me that this piece of land is not owned by the City of Calgary, but has been purchased by another party.  However, she said that she has no idea WHO OWNS THE LAND now.  She informed me that, in fact, someone had gone onto the property, mowed over the garbage that my readers see in this photograph and left the broken plastics strewn.  She told me that the Home Depot associates would not be able to be involved in cleaning up this waste (although I had informed her that 80 % of the litter was labeled with the Home Depot logo) because that would mean trespassing onto someone else’s land.  All I had hoped, in my imagination, was that Home Depot would see this as an opportunity for community service and stewardship.  Chandos Construction Ltd.  had answered this call to stewardship and for me, this demonstrates the difference between a company with ethics and one who espouses to that, but does not follow up at the community level.

I asked Patricia if I might have made more progress contacting the Home Depot Canada’s offices.  She assured me that the answers would all be the same.  I ended by telling her, “I am not surprised at this very bureaucratic response to my concerns.”  When I told her that perhaps I needed to contact the media about the Home Depot ‘way’, she said, paraphrased, “If that’s what you need to do, go ahead.”  I took her response and sat with it.  Now….this.

I’ve contacted my City of Calgary, By-Law Representative, Rick Haddow.  Last night he was going to drive by the tract of land that I am making reference to.  He told me that his office had not heard from Home Depot, but that is not to say that some other department hadn’t.  He asked me to leave this matter with him and he would get back to me.

In conclusion…for today.  Here we have a GIANT among corporations, Home Depot, clearly drawing boundaries and thinking about whether this piece of land is under their jurisdiction rather than thinking, “What can we do?  How can we help?  What initiative can we take?”  Instead, the culture of Home Depot and this particular store is to provide their ‘associates’ with a picnic space that is right on the line of this devastation.  The line is drawn.  “This is NOT OUR LAND!”

When did this happen?  That we can not take care of the land, because we don’t own it?

Changing the Landscape: One Bag At a Time

April 16, 2012 11:00 a.m. Weather: Sunshine, warm breeze 5 degrees.  We had so much snow on the weekend, that I didn’t get out to do my pickin’, so today I cleared out the Tim Hortons Latte cups and the Corona bottles, as well as a new batch of plastics.  Unfortunately, long pieces of heavy weight plastics are coming across the road from the Home Depot’s landscape products now.  I picked up two on this trip, taking up most of today’s bag.  I’m still waiting to hear from Patricia of Atlanta, Georgia…home of the Home Depot Executive Escalation Team.  I was told I’d hear from them today regarding the situation at the Shawnessy Home Depot and their thickly littered boulevard.

Plastic-wrapped landscape product...just waiting for Calgarians and spring!

Typically, the stuff that gets away, ends up in One Bag.  I met a couple of people on my walk today…didn’t catch their names, but they were both drinking Tim Hortons lattes.  I said, “I sure hope you are putting those cups in the bin, once you’re finished.”  I learned that these folk often pick up a small plastic bag from the ground while they go on their walks at Frank’s Flats, and fill it with litter.  It ended up being a real ‘gratitude’ talk.  I enjoyed it very much.

Weekend Tims

I spoke to them about the fact that Alberta does not yet have technology whereby the Tim Hortons cups can be scrubbed of their poly interiors, so untimately, while they do advertise and provide recycle bins for their product, it all ends up in the landfill.  They were surprised that it is only the Atlantic provinces that are recycling their cups.  Something for Albertans to think about.