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

Last evening, I attended an orientation for the Calgary Pathway and River Clean-up hosted by the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.  I felt that I was sitting with like-minded people and I felt transformed from the sense of helplessness and ineffectiveness of the morning.  I really DID relax into myself and felt gratitude for the project that I’ve been faithful to for the past three months.  I feel more prepared, for one, regarding hazardous materials procedures, safe practices, tactical disengagement and prohibited activities.  I guess I’ve been doing things backwards, really.  I had such a desire to clean up the darned mess that I acted somewhat spontaneously and might have at some point, really made a serious mistake.

Because the city closed down registrations for the Pathway and River Clean-up a wee bit early this year due to the overwhelming interest in volunteerism for this project. (Good Stuff!) I ended up registering my team for the Canada wide Pitch-In program that takes place April 23 -April 30.  On Saturday morning, the 28th, we’ll meet here for a big cowboy breakfast and I’ll train my team.  Then we’ll head out to Frank’s Flats for what will be my final pick-up of that particular tract of land.  Last night, one of the City Parks people went over this map with me and explained that it is corporate land, not parks land.  The City, however, has been very happy and supportive that I have taken this area on because it DOES become such an eye sore in terms of trash.  No one in the corporate world…CN Railway, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, or Tim Hortons is taking responsibility.

Those of you who read my recent posts know what a struggle it has been to get the ‘big boys’ of business on my side.  I’ve had good experiences there and not so good…Chandos Construction Ltd.  ended up being a prize among companies and an organization that wished to meet their social and ethical responsibilities.  Home Depot, on the other hand, wished to wash their hands of their own statement of philosophy and abandon it in a practical sense.  It was easier to make their mess someone elses responsibility.  I will never look at the word, ASSOCIATE, in the same way again.  Tim Hortons…well, Tim Hortons has a struggle of sustainability on their hands.  There are many grassroots folk who work for the company who have NO IDEA what the vision is for long term sustainability.  In their own sustainability report, they provide zero accountability for their own waste management.

Long-story-short, I will be calling 3-1-1 and find a piece of land that is within our City Parks jurisdiction and continue my stewardship in the city of Calgary.  The bird sanctuary, itself, is a testament to how beautiful a property can be within a bustling city!  I am proud of the work I’ve done and I DO believe that one person can change a landscape.  Frank’s Flats is for the most part, a ‘magical’ place and now, with the birds nesting along the pond’s perimeter, I feel as though my efforts are truly enjoyed!

On this map, you can see the piece of land to the right of the Shawnessy Home Depot, that has provided me with my greatest challenge.  Home Depot does NOT own that land!

Frank's Flats

I will spend the remainder of the month, along with my team, clearing the slope that edges on the school and I will get the highschool crud cleaned out from a stand of trees where some very yucky things happen…and then I will leave Frank’s Flats for the people who use it…to steward it…so, dog-walkers, joggers, homeless, highschool students, sports center parents and children, coffee drinkers…as of May 1st, this land is YOUR land!  I’ll be pickin’ in a piece of park land, not far from you.

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. Gustave Flaubert

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.