What do iguanas, coconuts, sofas and shopping carts have in common?
The answer is they were among the countless items recovered from the Seine River in the Bois-des-Esprits forest by the Save Our Seine Green Team this summer during the organization’s annual summer cleanup.
SOS is a community-based stewardship group whose mandate is to protect, preserve and enhance the Seine River environment within the city.
"The river runs through the whole forest and 26 kilometres through the city, so that’s 52 kilometres of riverbank that needs to be maintained," said Chris Pearce, this year’s green team co-ordinator, noting the Seine empties into the Red River just north of The Forks.
Pearce and his team spent the summer months combing the riverbanks and navigating the river in canoes and kayaks in an attempt to clean up what has increasingly become a massive, moving garbage dump.
The team recovered the equivalent of 270 garbage bags of trash, more than 100 golf balls, 28 bicycles, 23 shopping carts, five desks, two mattresses, an antique gas lawnmower and much more.
Pearce, who lives in Grant Park, believes the residential growth of the area has contributed to the problem.
"It’s now a concentrated area with several apartment buildings and three or four thousand people living close together. Because they are (in) apartments, these people don’t have any investment or feel any ownership of the area," he said.
Among the more the more curious items discovered this summer were three long-dead iguanas nailed to a piece of wood.
"We saw a plank of man-made wood in the water, so we felt we had to get it out. It had a grungy old rope attaching it to the bank. The kids flipped it over and it caused a bit of excitement and a few screams, as we thought the iguanas were live," Pearce said.
The property owner argued with Pearce that the wood provides legitimate shade for fish and somewhere for turtles to sun themselves, so the team decided to let the iguanas remain in their watery home.
The team also found numerous coconuts in the southern part of the river, as well as rose petals and statuettes. Stumped at first, team members eventually concluded the items were the result of "religious festivals coming from the nearby Hindu temple," Pearce said.
SOS also had to deal with logjams and the impact of nine recurrent beaver dams.
"You clear the dams out, but they’re back a week later," Pearce said. "These things are marvels of engineering, but a right pain. But they help keep the water levels up, which benefits the fish."
Royalwood resident Dave Watson — a community advocate and past president of SOS — said he’s surprised the area remains such a hidden treasure to many individuals.
"Lots of residents will have canoes in their backyards in the more rural parts, but I’m always amazed that people who live two blocks away have never seen the river, so it can seem like a mysterious, hidden place," Watson said.
For more information, visit www.saveourseine.com.