New volunteer group cleaning up litter around town

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

A local group started out picking up rubbish, because they were sick of crime, but found various sources for the litter.

Mike Prce started the Slave Lake Clean-up Crew after he was a victim of a crime. He also joined Citizen’s on Patrol, which is a different group. For the Clean-Up Crew, he found other people on social media who were upset about crime.

“The angriest people have been helping the most,” he says.

Prce is careful to clarify that there are homeless people who need help, but there are also street-engaged people who look homeless who are committing crimes.

On May 4, 2024, the group got together to pick up litter in a former homeless encampment in Slave Lake. They cleaned up a different location on May 11 and every other weekend since then. The group has about 30 active members with about 10 or 12 coming out each time.

The goal was to “hopefully, stop some of the crime we’ve been seeing,” says Prce, “and cleaning up the mess, we see afterwards.”

That was the first priority, but the group has also cleaned up areas which have no evidence of anyone living or hanging out there.

“We also do a lot of general trash,” adds Prce. “Anywhere that looks bad.”

This has included parts of Allarie Trails, the ditch by Jiffy Lube, and trees beside Northern Lakes College.

Prce thinks businesses and individuals could do more to stop the litter problem.

If you have idle staff, have them pick up the litter around your business, he says, or “if you walk past a piece of trash everyday, pick it up.”

This isn’t a completely new idea.

Some individuals carry a bag with them when they go for a walk.

Slave Lake has had an annual clean-up in the spring for years. This year, the Slave Lake Community Clean-Up was the week of April 22 to 29. One group collected over 30 bags of trash from their area. There were 14 groups this year. The Government of Alberta had highway cleanup in May.

When the Slave Lake Clean-up Crew first started, businesses would help anonymously.

“A lot of businesses were really worried they’d be attacked on social media,” says Prce. “It’s not this nefarious thing we’re doing. It’s gone from being a taboo subject.”

“None of these areas that we’ve cleaned up have been active sites …,” he adds. “We haven’t every evicted anybody or pushed anybody out.”

The Slave Lake RCMP have been monitoring suspected encampments in the area.

In recent months, Staff Sgt. Casey Bruyns told the M.D. of Lesser Slave River and Town of Slave Lake at public council meetings, the only encampment with people in it was on Flat Top. This had been between two and 10 people living in it, he told the councils, with no evidence of crimes.

The Town of Slave Lake and RCMP removed that encampment on June 12. The Town of Slave Lake council also closed the Slave Lake Homeless Shelter on May 22 until November 1, pending review.

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