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Fort Nelson child inspires national 'Greenup Cleanup' movement

Buckets of oil, bags of human feces and jugs full of urine. That was just some of what was picked up at a recent "pitch-in, clean up day" in the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality.

Buckets of oil, bags of human feces and jugs full of urine. That was just some of what was picked up at a recent "pitch-in, clean up day" in the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality.

In Fort Nelson, the litter along Cordova Way near the Tim Hortons is a problem every spring. As the snow melts, garbage replaces the once-pristine fields near the popular coffee shop.         

It's a problem that's not unique to Fort Nelson, but not every town is lucky enough to have their own Asia Mcguire.

The five-year-old Earth Ranger — a conservation group aimed at kids — has made it her mission to clean up Fort Nelson. Asia is so gung-ho that her mom, Laura, sometimes finds hard to keep up with her.

If Asia had it her way, it would be her full-time job, but her mom tries to focus that energy on one large cleanup a year.

"We try and do [a clean up] at least once a year," Mcguire said. "Once in a while we will just clean up a street throughout the summer, but it gets to be a little bit too much."

Asia was about three when she noticed litter on the ground and started asking her mother "why aren't people using the garbage cans?"

Inspired by her daughter's enthusiasm, she organized a "pitch-in, clean up" day for their entire street and it has become a yearly tradition.

Last year, Asia and her mom partnered with the Northern Environmental Action Team (NEAT) for what they called a "Greenup Cleanup," challenging neighbours and friends to clean up their streets.

"She and her friends went with chalk and they wrote 'Greenup Cleanup' on all the sidewalks," Mcguire beamed. "I was so proud of her."

The Greenup Cleanup challenge spread through Facebook and word of mouth. Next thing they knew, families in Ontario, Alberta, the Yukon and as far north as Alaska were posting pictures of their own neighbourhood cleanups — inspired by Asia.

This campaign earned Asia recognition on the Wall of Fame on the Earth Ranger's website.

"We were over the moon about that," Mcguire said.

Some of the volunteers suggested that they combine efforts and tackle the garbage by the Tim Hortons on Cordova Way, spawning a new yearly event.

"I knew as soon as the snow was gone she'd want to pick up garbage again," Mcguire explained.

What they found this year surprised them.

"[Last year] it was gross, but not terrible. But this year, it was awful. I've never seen that much garbage — ever," Mcguire said. "It was definitely the worst I've ever seen. We found open buckets of oil, two bags of human feces and at least 14 bottles full of pee."

Construction rubble from a recently built gas station was also scattered across fields in the area, but that has since been cleaned up after the Mcguires raised the issue on "every public Facebook page in town."

It's not a problem that can be easily traced back to a singlesource.

"[The town] put two garbage bins there and ultimately, it's up to people to use them. I can't point fingers at any one person. The people passing through are throwing their garbage out, the truckers are throwing their garbage out," Mcguire said.

Every community has the same problem this time of the year, and with spring cleanup days happening in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek this month, maybe residents there can draw inspiration from this feisty five-year-old.

"There's no words. She is my inspiration for everything. She is not scared to stomp up to a big person in a parking lot and say 'you pick up your garbage,'" Mcguire said.

"I think a big part of it is the kids get involved and they start asking questions. We have a responsibility to answer them honestly and say, you're right this is wrong. We can't keep doing this, we have to teach people."

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