Okanagan group dedicated to cleaning up local forests comes across biggest encampment yet

Major mess in the forest

A group of Okanagan volunteers dedicating to cleaning up debris left in local forests says they have come across what may be their biggest encampment to date.

On Sunday, the Okanagan Forest Task Force toured a camp near Okanagan Falls that they described as "full of travel trailers, motorhomes, metal, tons and tons of garbage and even hidden underground locations."

Founder of the group Kane Blake took several videos at the scene, showing smouldering fires, and described the smell of "burning garbage."

Blake also found a similar mess just a few kilometres up the road, with burnt-out vehicles, garbage and more.

His concern is that such conditions, in areas all over the Okanagan, lead to fires.

"This is not the first encampment we have been to where a brush or a wildfire was started. Sadly this is the risk we take by letting these camps stay and something needs to change," Blake said, in a press release issued Monday.

Blake was alerted to this latest encampment by Okanagan Falls community members, who said the mess has been building for years.

"It's now one of our main [cleanup] priorities for the spring and is going to take a lot of planning," Blake said.

Since its formation in 2016, the group has cleaned up 815,046 pounds of garbage from backcountry Okanagan locations, adding "we are sadly on track to hit over one million pounds by next summer."

Blake gives his thanks to members, the community and partnered business like ABC Recycling and Norval Rentals.

The group has cleaned up sites all throughout the Okanagan Valley.

Contributed Kane Blake

More Penticton News