A shared love for fitness is making a positive difference for the local environment in Bracebridge’s Oakley Ward.
A group of residents who started a local walking club are taking it upon themselves to clean the litter out of ditches along the roads they travel each week.
On any given week between early-Spring and late-Fall, club members gather a large amount of beer cans and other refuse that littering drivers toss from their windows in the area – it’s eye opening the amount that’s being collected.
“(The idea for the club) stems from the Retired Teachers of Ontario, who in town, were wondering about starting a walking club,” says Walking Club Founder and Oakley Village Square Board member Carolyn Dunn Rapson. “I thought ‘hmm, this would be good in Vankoughnet. It’s a way to get people exercising & getting to know the community without having to pay a fee.”
It was club members Randy and Allyson Rapson who first keyed into the picking up of litter aspect of the club. Bud light and bud light lime seems to be the popular choice for guilty drivers in the area.
“We spotted it and said ‘look at all the beer cans along here, we should be bringing a bag with us and start to pick it up” says Allyson Rapson, who adds that they were inspired by their daughter, who picks up litter on her road with her husband in Peterborough.
“(At first) we didn’t bring enough bags and ended up filling about three and said next time, we’ll bring more,” she adds.
It doesn’t matter which road the club members walk down – the litter is always there.
Randy Rapson (left) estimates that at least 25 beer cans per bag were collected during this week’s walk along Vankoughnet Road off Highway 118 East, helping fill about 6-7 bags.
The Walking Club is now in its second year and has about 8 members on average, but they welcome anyone who wants to join.
“We walk through the black flies,” laughs club member Joanne Sutton. “I enjoy it – it gets me out with other people – I walk every day anyway, but on Mondays I come and enjoy being with the other walkers.”
Club members meet at the Oakley Village Square in the Village of Vankoughnet at 10am Mondays to start their weekly walks.
“Anyone can join,” says Dunn Rapson (right). “We walk in and around Vankoughnet for about 40-45 minutes each week and take different routes, so we vary it.”
The weekly walks are really sprucing up the look of area roadways and club members recommend others throughout Muskoka follow their lead.
“Even if you just bring the bags back and throw it in your own recycling,” says Allyson Rapson. “The beer cans have value. You can redeem each of them for 10 cents at the beer store, then you can decide what you want to do with that cash.”
The Walking Club have now decided they will start donating the redeemed value of the weekly collected cans to the Muskoka OSPCA as a way of giving back even further to the community.
(Photos by Matt Sitler)