Bad grad campers leave piles of trash, chairs behind

Calgarian Jon Bek was just enjoying a weekend camping trip when his walk in the woods turned into an involuntary frat party cleanup crew.

Bek and some friends were camping at Waiparous, near Cochrane, when they discovered a couple hundred meters away was a group of graduating high school students — about 50 vehicles and 100 students, Bek said.

One of of Bek’s friends wandered over to hang out a bit, only to discover that the campsite was a mess.

That led Bek and his friend to pay a return visit to the site, where they reminded the students to pick up after themselves before they left.

After all, the code among campers is to leave a space looking like you were never there.

“There are a lot of people that like to do random camping in the crown land areas who are more or less what we like to call camping stewards,” Bek said. “They tend to do a good job at keeping the sites clean and making sure they’re being responsible when they’re out there, but sometimes not everyone follows those same same rules and morals.”

The students left behind about a dozen chairs, including some that were fine. (John Bek)

Bek and his friends thought they delivered the fine points of the camper’s code pretty clearly.

“Make sure you guys take out all your garbage and clean up the site and everything before you leave,” Bek said in an interview with CBC News.

Sunday morning, Bek and his friends checked out the site.

“Much to our surprise, they didn’t listen and they didn’t pack out any of their garbage, so there was dozens of garbage bags, broken chairs and tables and stuff in the woods.

Another tree at Waiparous Creek Campground. (John Bek)

“The fire pit was a total mess. I’d have to say there was probably over a dozen camping chairs that had just been broken. Some of them were brand new. They still even had the labels on them and they were just broken up. There was a table there — it looks like someone took an axe to this table.”

The grad party campers may have chopped down some trees, as well. (John Bek)

Trees down

The axe wielder didn’t stop at a table, either — apparently a number of trees were cut down as well.

“When you’re out in crown land cutting firewood is generally an OK thing as long as you know what you’re doing and you have the right permits,” he said. “But usually the rule is anything that’s standing shouldn’t be touched because that’s habitat for birds.”

“A lot of them are living trees. They’re not going to burn anyway if you put it in a fire pit,” he added. “But there was several completely live green trees that had been cut down in the area.

“We did hear a chainsaw the night before,” he added, “and when we went over, there was just a bunch of trees laying over that were obviously freshly cut. Some of them had been cut down with an axe and not even burned, so I don’t even know what the point of it was.”

Calgarian Jon Bek was just enjoying a weekend camping trip when his walk in the woods turned into an involuntary frat party cleanup crew. (John Bek)

Bek and his friends then set about collecting around 10 garbage bags full of camping trash, along with approximately 10 to 12 chairs and other camping items like lanterns. They’ve also got a folding plastic table with axe wounds. 

“I’ve got a full truckload of garbage and chairs right now,” he said.

What’s he going to do with it?

John Bek has a truck full of trash and broken camping chairs that he doesn’t know what to do with. (John Bek)

“I actually have no idea. I have I have nowhere to put it.

“It’s obviously not going to fit in the garbage bin at home here because I did put a note out there on the Alberta Campers page on Facebook and I said if anyone wants some free camping chairs, there’s still a few that are good.”

Bek felt compelled to go public with the incident because he wants to spread the word about unacceptable camping behaviour.

“I just really hope that people can spread the word and we can get some awareness of this kind of thing because we need more people to go and do these cleanups and stuff that nobody else is doing, and for people that are leaving all this garbage behind to smarten up and hopefully stop doing it,” Bek said.

A pair of abandoned sneakers at the site. (John Bek)

“We don’t want to lose these campsites. We don’t want to lose the privilege to enjoy the land and the nature that we have, especially here in Canada. I mean, this is exactly how we lost Castle Mountain and several other random camping spots.”

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