The suction-cup prongs of the garbage picker holds fast to the soft mass wedged beneath two large rocks. With a pull, Cheryl Ashlie, councillor for Maple Ridge, reels in her strange catch - a sopping wet, ratty, wool scarf.
After briefly admiring her find, it's dropped onto a growing pile of refuse underneath the 232nd Street bridge beside Maple Ridge Park.
Ashlie and the two other volunteers manning the graffiti-covered ledge continue searching the area for more refuse.
The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is well underway.
Sponsored by the Vancouver Aquarium and the World Wildlife Fund, and put on by the Alouette River Management Society (ARMS), the event sees community volunteers come together across Canada to help clean up and protect local rivers, streams, and shorelines.
For Maple Ridge residents, that meant a Saturday patrolling the various areas around Maple Ridge Park, which resides along the Alouette River.
"It's really important to keep our streams healthy," said Nicole Driedger, volunteer and education co-ordinator with ARMS.
"All of the trash that comes down the storms drains and into the river actually winds up in the ocean."
As well, cleanup of the river helps the local eco-system as well, as it allows salmon to return to their spawning grounds and introduce much needed nutrients into the surrounding soil.
"We live in a temperate rain forest, and the Alouette River provides the highway to all the streams where the salmon spawn," said Driedger.
"Without the stream and without the salmon, we wouldn't have the forest."
With an estimated turnout of 40 volunteers, and approximately 14 large bags of trash picked up, Driedger and her co-worker, executive director Greta Borick- Cunningham, felt the event was a success.
However, Driedger cautioned that people need to remain aware and continue to pick up garbage and remove invasive species.
"More and more is needed, because as we build, our streams get less and less healthy," she said.
To assist ARMS in their efforts, there was also a group of volunteers undergoing specialized training at nearby Coho Creek on Saturday.
Led by ZoAnn Morten of the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation, the streamkeepers course aims to educate people on how to properly conduct things like salmon surveys, stream surveys and fry counts.
Borick-Cunningham is pleased with the results.
"It takes people that are already interested and living on local creeks... and it gives them more skills to feel confident about looking at their creek and say, 'Is it healthy? Is it not healthy?'" she said.
All of the data collected by the newly-trained volunteers is collected and uploaded by ARMS to the streamkeepers database, where it is available to study.
"It's all about citizen science," said Borick-Cunningham. "They've been watching these creeks change. It helps to inform streamkeepers and DFO [Department of Fisheries and Oceans] how the creeks and the streams are doing in any given watershed."
This past Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Last year, more than 136 metric tonnes of garbage throughout Canada was collected.
@ Copyright 2013