Heaps of garbage from morel mushroom pickers sat untouched for months on North Bonaparte Road, near Pressy Lake.
Pickers and buyers had occupied areas around Crater Lake back in June and July.
The garbage they left behind was finally cleaned up on Friday, Sept. 7, after Pressy Lake resident Lorne Smith posted photos of the mess in a Facebook group called Pressy Lake Strong the previous day.
“It was there for two months. They [the pickers] just left it there,” said Smith.
He contacted the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, the Conservation Officer Service and some other organizations the same day as his Facebook post, but said that, “It took us going to social media to get it cleaned up.”
“We’re dealing with the total loss of our home and our whole community from the fires and that’s the last thing we need is a view of garbage all around, because we’ve got burnt trees and everything else all around there now,” said Smith.
“The concern was not only that it’s an eyesore,” but also that the garbage might attract bears.
It was Lori Pilon, the constituency assistant for Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart, who saw Smith’s post and took action.
Pilon confirmed in a phone interview that it was she who emailed the Secwepemc band to alert them of the garbage.
“That’s the first I knew about it,” she said, referring to Smith’s post.
She said Secwepemc staff responded to her email the same night saying it was an oversight, they appreciated somebody letting them know about it and they would clean it up right away.
Smith said he was amazed how quickly the garbage was cleaned up.
“I was going to go out there and meet them and help them do it and show them where it is, but they beat me to it.”
He said he’d planned to help clean at 10 a.m. but members of the band had already finished cleaning by then.
This was the first year that the provincial government partnered with the local Indigenous people to manage mushroom picking in the areas burned by the Elephant Hill fires.
The Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development announced in a media release on May 18 that the Secwepemc community would collect $20 from pickers and $500 from mushroom buyers.
In exchange, they received “educational materials, safety tips and rudimentary camping services” to encourage a responsible and low-impact harvest.
“It wasn’t a money making venture,” said Pilon, but rather a way to make sure pickers stayed within certain areas and the area was not overpicked.
One good thing to have come out of this exchange (aside from the garbage being removed) is a recognition that communication between communities needs improvement.
Pilon said Smith suggested in their written communications that a get together be organized where Indigenous people are included.
She said this will likely happen in the future as they continue their efforts to build a better relationship with the Secwepemc people.
Smith ended up taking down his original Facebook post about the garbage because he said the comments and the blaming was getting out of control.