It is one thing to participate in a shoreline cleanup. It is another thing entirely to see the impact a cleanup has on your community.

Take the Ottawa Bluesfest, an annual event held in the Lebreton Flats of Ottawa every July. People of all ages come together to celebrate summer and good music. And while the organizers do a great job of cleaning the festival grounds, I know as a past attendee that the festival’s litter footprint is felt far from the concert grounds.

Nina Andrascik cleans the waterways of Canada’s capital.

To get to Bluesfest, attendees walk the streets and paths along the Ottawa River before and after the festival. Unfortunately, this leads to an excessive amount of litter along a major waterway in Canada’s capital. After taking part in Ocean Bridge this past May, an Ocean Wise youth-service program that inspires leaders to create change in their communities, I was inspired to give back to my Ottawa community. Organizing a post-Bluesfest river cleanup was something that I knew the community needed, after seeing and experience the litter first hand.

A river cleanup allowed concerned community members to enjoy the festivities, while also providing a way to help the pollution it causes beyond the festival grounds. During the organization, I had terrific support from the Ocean Bridge team. Things like picking an event date, location, announcements, tracking RSVPs, getting supplies (shout-out to the City of Ottawa for lending gear) and all the nit-picky details become so much easier with a team behind you. I also provided healthy snacks for volunteers. No, not plastic water bottles, but locally grown berries!

The Bluesfest cleanup crew gather for a group shot.

What I loved most about this event was bringing together people from my personal and professional network for a cause. That included colleagues and friends from Ocean Bridge, the Canadian Service Corps, my workplace at outdoor gear store Bushtukah, old soccer teams, and my Nepean high school who all came out to pitch in on a hot and sunny day. We indeed formed a community.

One of the best pieces of feedback I got came from a friend who initially showed up to support me, but ended up staying until the end when he realized the cleanup’s impact on the community. He enjoyed himself — and he helped his community!

After this successful cleanup, I’m looking forward to even more opportunities to motivate youth and engage communities in the future. For instance, high school students are required to complete community-service hours, so why not organize ocean-friendly events that help students do just that?   These events could include students creating their own initiatives, just like the I created my own Bluesfest Ottawa River Cleanup. This way, everyone can enjoy and contribute to the vibrancy and beauty of Ottawa.

Nina Andrascik is part of the Ocean Bridge 2018 Cohort. She  would like to extend a final thank-you to her community for the first ever post Ottawa River Bluesfest cleanup!

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