Yarker men pull 15 tires from bottom of Napanee River

Ted Darby shows off some of the 15 tires he and Lawrence O’Keeffe pulled from the Napanee River recently. Low water levels due to this summer drought helped them to be able to see and access the pollution. Submitted photo.

Adam Bramburger
Beaver Staff

Three Friends of the Napanee Watershed really had to put some effort into that relationship recently.

Yarker residents Joanne and Lawrence O’Keeffe regularly kayak the river between their home and Camden East. On their trips, they photograph wild and aquatic life,  pick-up garbage left by winter run-off, and periodically test water quality.

Early this month they spotted something unexpected and needing attention on one of their idyllic paddling adventures. With low water levels due to the summer drought, they were able to see a couple of tires in the river. They stopped with the intention of pulling them out of the water, only to discover it wasn’t just a pair of discarded tires.

The O’Keeffes recruited neighbour Ted Darby, another member of the Friends of the Napanee Watershed who also lives on the river to help with a clean-up effort. Nearly two hours later, Lawrence and Darby had pulled 15 tires from the river and stacked them in a canoe for removal.

“With the low river level, we just had to dive in four-to-five foot water amongst the weeds and pull them out by hand, empty them out, then hoist them aboard,” O’Keeffe told the Beaver. He said the tires were filled with sediment and stones built up over time in the water.

“Most of the tires appear to have been there for some time. Dates on some go back to the 1960s,” he continued. “We are still talking with some of the lifers in the area to see if there was a shop nearby, especially on County Rd. 1 E., which runs close to the area where we found them.

The volunteers said they felt it would be best to remove the tires from the river immediately, rather than wait until fall rains forced the river to rise.

While pulling 15 tires from the river might seem shocking, Darby said it is but one example of a larger unfortunate trend.

“It is regretful that these scenarios are still far too common along our rivers and in our lakes, and it only takes the efforts of a few to make a difference,” he said.

“Being environmental stewards is more about taking action than sitting around a table talking about it.”

Darby and the O’Keeffes hope that by sharing their story, they will encourage others to actively keep local waterways clean and enjoyable for all.

The Friends of the Napanee Watershed is one outlet toward that end. The group holds bi-monthly information events to teach people about the watershed and about conservation and stewardship.

For more information about the group, please  e-mail O’Keeffe at lawrenceok@icloud.com.

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