After the first Devil's Punchbowl event in 2012, Greg Lenko's Escarpment Project has grown into one of Canada's largest volunteer environmental clean-ups.
By Erich Nolan Bertussi
Published March 04, 2014
What started with one Hamiltonian doing a good deed has quickly erupted into one of Canada's largest volunteer environmental clean-ups. Started by Hamilton native Greg Lenko, the now-annual event takes place along the Niagara Escarpment in Hamilton each April. Don't be surprised if you haven't heard of it, it has grown this large in only three short years.
The clean-up began as an idea in February 2012. Greg asked his online contacts if they would be interested in helping him clean the litter from the Devil's Punchbowl. He dubbed the initiative "Project Punchbowl".
On the day of the event, approximately 100 volunteers showed up in the wind and rain. An overflowing dumpster and ten pickup trucks full of garbage were removed.
The project has since grown to include the escarpment from the Chedoke Radial Trail, almost completely uninterrupted to Albion Falls, as well as the original Devil's Punchbowl. The project is now called "The Escarpment Project".
It has become evident that people have been waiting for an organized event like The Escarpment Project. People are actively joining the army of volunteers from Oakville, Toronto, St Catharines, Niagara, and beyond.
Last year's cleanup was joined by just as many out-of-towners as Hamilton residents. A letter of endorsement was even sent to The Escarpment Project from the David Suzuki Foundation.
The people attending and supporting the cleanups are the reason behind its dramatic growth. The number of volunteers, recently nicknamed "Enviromaniacs," continues to grow with each passing year. While nature enthusiasts make up the largest portion of volunteers, there are many who simply want to be a part of something positive in their community.
The Escarpment Project even allows students to complete community service hours, to put towards their volunteer requirement to graduate high school.
Anyone can join the "Enviromaniacs" by registering their name on the "get involved" page of the website. "Enviromaniacs" then simply need to show up on April 27th, 2014 at 11AM, to help for as long as they like.
Anyone unable to join with their feet on April 27 can lend a tweet or post images with instagram using the "#escprj" hashtag. People can also show their support by sharing the cleanup video with friends, who may also want to join in.
Donations to the Escarpment Project of $5, $10, or more can also be made online. Donations to The Escarpment Project are needed to cover costs such as the participation of St. John's Ambulance, event insurance and clean-up and safety equipment.
There will be several meet-up locations for volunteers to pick up supplies. The locations will include the top and bottom of the Devil's Punchbowl, on the Kenilworth Rail Trail between the upper and lower sets of stairs, the bottom of the Wentworth stairs at Wentworth St. and near the parking lot of Chedoke Golf Course on the Chedoke Radial Trail.
Several city councillors have thankfully helped cut through the red tape. Tom Jackson is ensuring access for volunteers to the now closed Albion Falls area, which was closed due to several emergency rescues in the past year. Brad Clark and Sam Merulla have also been instrumental in ensuring the events go ahead without a hitch.
Other city councillors supporting this year's cleanup include Bob Morrow, Chad Collins, Lloyd Ferguson and Scott Duvall.
While the city of Hamilton does show its support by donating garbage bags, gloves and some tools, there are still additional costs for The Escarpment Project.
Some of these additional costs include the participation of St. John's Ambulance, event insurance and the additional necessary cleanup and safety equipment. This is why private donations are so important to The Escarpment Project.
What many people may not realize is how fun and truly rewarding it is to get out into nature and clean it up. There are so many benefits to volunteering to help clean up the environment.
Anyone can think of the obvious reasons to pick up litter from a forest, but there are so many others. Spending time in nature has health benefits not just for our forests, but for ourselves as well. It decreases tension, feelings of depression and increases self esteem.
The simple act of volunteering has similar personal health benefits such as decreasing feelings of depression, symptoms of chronic pain and reducing heart disease. This type of event also helps build a stronger community, it allows people to spend time with family and friends, build new friendships and so much more.
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Volunteers are needed for The Escarpment Project on April 27, 2014 at 11:00 AM.
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