A group made up of volunteers who clean up the backcountry was honoured with an award over the weekend.
The Okanagan Forest Task Force (OFTF) received a Special Recognition Award from the Conservation Officer Service on Sunday (Oct. 17).
OFTF founder Kane Blake said it all came as a surprise on Sunday when he and a group of volunteers were doing a short meeting before starting to clean up along Beaver Lake Road in Lake Country. Since the group works closely with the Conservation Officer Service in the Okanagan, Blake said they told the officers about the morning meeting but didn’t suspect anything special was going to happen.
“We told them about the morning meeting and they said they wanted to attend it,” he said.
“It made sense because it’s hunting season, so there are road checks and things like that. So we waited until they showed up, did our morning meeting and during that meeting in front of everybody, they handed us the award.”
North Okanagan Zone conservation officer Ken Owens said it was a pleasure to present the award to Blake and OFTF, which has helped combat illegal dumping in the backcountry and other forested areas in Kelowna and the Okanagan.
“In Kelowna, we are very fortunate to have a community group of outdoor enthusiasts, the Okanagan Forest Task Force who organizes volunteer cleanup events and outdoor recreational areas,” he said in a statement.
“Since their formation in August 2016, they have cleaned up more than 360,000 pounds of garbage locally… I can not say enough about how fortunate we are to have (Blake) and his devoted group of volunteers reclaiming the backcountry surrounding Kelowna from illegal dumpers that had become a real problem.”
For his part, Blake said it felt good to be recognized for the hard work they do.
“It’s not just for one person or anything, this award is for the entire group and all of our sponsors,” he said.
“Without them, we wouldn’t be anywhere. With ABC Recycling, Nor-Val Rentals for our equipment, Ford that got my truck going again, Canadian Tire that helped with suspension and tire work on my truck, and Dan Carter from Red Cherry Media who helped with our new website.”
He added the volunteers were happy and excited about the award and encouraged them to keep doing the work they do.
OFTF’s new website now has a page where people can report illegal dumpsites in the backcountry, as well as a map of reported locations, and Blake encourages residents to report sites with as much detail as possible.
“I just want to thank the community for the support in everything our group does,” he said.
“We’re not going anywhere and we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing.”