His face beams with pride as he drives his truck along Highway 12 in South Alton, looking down onto litter-free roadsides for the first time in memory.
Derrick Shaffer of Shaffer's 24-Hour Towing said he got disgusted seeing so much garbage in the ditches of his home community, so he decided to act.
“We can’t do anything about the hospital, we can’t do anything about the roads but we sure as hell can do something about the ditches,” Shaffer said.
Once the snow left this spring, he noticed one day while driving to Kentville that heavy stormwater flows had accumulated several bags of garbage in the ditch.
He later noticed that someone had stopped and picked up the trash. This got him thinking about cleaning up the rest of the ditches.
Using his own resources, he hired Norman Ferguson and Chelsey Robson of Berwick to pick up the litter. As of May 2, they had cleaned up 4 km of ditches. Shaffer said he is amazed by the volume of waste. They were able to collect 80 full garbage bags between the South Mountain Camp Ground and his salvage yard, a distance of only 2.6 km.
Shaffer said there was more garbage between his shop and the campground than along the rest of the stretch, probably because there are fewer houses and it’s less likely people will get caught.
It wasn’t just refuse thrown from passing vehicles: There were a number of spots where it was obvious illegal dumping had occurred. In one location, someone had dumped bags full of used disposable diapers. Mattresses, several car tires, scrap metal and other items were also found.
This garbage isn’t part of the 80 bags his workers picked up. He said Valley Waste would be cleaning up the illegal dumping sites.
LDR Dumpsters has donated a dumpster for the workers to use and the garbage will be disposed of through the proper waste streams. The first full dumpster was delivered to Valley Waste on May 3.
“I didn’t dream it was going to be this big a job, it’s mind-boggling how much garbage is in the ditches,” Shaffer said.
He said the initiative has received several compliments from passersby. Shaffer plans to have his workers clean up the ditches of Highway 12 all the way to the Kentville town line, which he said would probably take another week.
Shaffer also hopes to go from Casey’s Corner along the North River Road to East Side Drive by Brigadoon Village. He said young cancer patients and their family members coming from away to attend Camp Brigadoon deserve to drive along a clean road, even if the condition of the road itself leaves much to be desired.
Shaffer said a fire at his construction and demolition debris disposal site on the North River Road in late March 2016 had nothing to do with his decision to pick up the roadside garbage. After pleading guilty, his companies were fined a total of $35,000 on three Environment Act charges in March 2018. The site remains closed and he said this is “a whole other issue that is ongoing.”
HAPPY TO HELP
Ferguson said he knows Shaffer from dealing with him for vehicles and parts. They’re out to his shop quite often and noticed the mess in the ditches.
Ferguson hopes people will enjoy being able to drive along the stretch of Highway 12 without seeing all the garbage, especially tourists who visit this summer.
Robson said a lot of passing motorists are honking their horns in approval. A lot of people walk along Highway 12 and she hopes the clean ditches will allow them to enjoy the experience much more.
“We talked to a couple of people, actually, that were walking and thanked us and said we were doing a good job,” she said.
Ferguson and Robson are hopeful that others who see them working will be inspired to take similar action in their own communities. Ferguson said they’ve been offered help from people who didn’t realize at first that they’re being paid for the work.