Allow us to introduce you to Alan Roy. He’s been leading shoreline cleanups for more than 20 years in Toronto. Last year, he introduced his volunteers to a brand new clean-up mascot: the Tyrannosaurus Rex, now a common feature on his clean-up posters. As he prepares for the 26th anniversary of his popular Colonel Samuel Smith Park cleanup in Toronto, Ontario, we caught up with Alan to find out how he engages his entire community and the reason behind why he chose a T-Rex as a mascot for shoreline clean-ups.
Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup: What is your personal connection to shorelines?
Alan Roy: I used to live near Glen Stewart Ravine in the east end of Toronto and began my first volunteer cleanup after learning about a neighbourhood dog who had been seriously injured on some broken glass. After our family moved to the west end, we started hosting cleanups in the nearby Colonel Samuel Smith Park. A close friend took over the Glen Stewart Ravine Cleanup and I’ve been cleaning at Colonel Samuel Smith Park ever since.
GCSC: So we have to ask you about the T-Rex. Your cleanup has become popular for this unique prehistoric mascot. What is the origin story?
AR: It was actually my son, Alec, who brought the T-Rex to life. He was “voluntold” to create a poster design for my 25th Anniversary Park Cleanup and didn’t disappoint, but, I’ll let him tell you in his own words.
Alec: Ever since I was young, I always loved dinosaurs. I was pretty up to date on jokes regarding them. One of my favourite jokes was the T-Rex hates something that he can’t reach, like a lollipop or a bass guitar. When my father commissioned me to make a poster, I thought it would be a great idea to incorporate that joke around shoreline litter. It would be memorable and eye-catching. So, I got to work photo editing and drawing, and when I finally finished, well, I’d like to think that my contribution helped bring more people in to help the environment.
AR: It most certainly did!
GCSC: Have you developed any unique ways to pick up some of the trickier litter items?
AR: We find litter in all shapes and sizes. To help sort the recycling, I use a small rake with a 90 degree spike welded to the head. This lets me puncture and drain any remaining liquid from cans and water bottles. It has a great many admirers. To handle the small floating debris, I have a seine net that we temporarily stretch across the catchment basin and skim the surface of the water. I’m right in the middle of creating a skimmer frame to push under the surface of the water and trap some of the smaller materials.
GCSC: You engage a massive community of volunteers, what is your top tip for getting people to participate in cleanups?
AR: Engage EVERYONE and start spreading the word early. You can put the word out in local papers and speak to anyone who has a newsletter. All sorts of groups can participate: schools (community hours are a great incentive), Scouts, Guides, church organizations, local businesses and service clubs. The list goes on. While I’m out spreading the word, I also approach local businesses and politicians for donations of refreshments, snacks, prizes and giveaways. I’ve grown from 20 volunteers in the first year to 180 annually.
If you live near Toronto, join Alan on Sunday April 15. We know that he’d love to have you. Just follow the T-Rex.
To lead your own cleanup, go to the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, select a date and location, and join the national network of cleanups.
The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited, is one of the largest direct action conservation programs in Canada. A conservation partnership by Ocean Wise and WWF-Canada, the Shoreline Cleanup aims to promote understanding of shoreline litter issues by engaging Canadians to rehabilitate shoreline areas through cleanups. Find out more at www.shorelinecleanup.ca.