Shawn McKean holds up a cigarette butt, a common piece of litter she regularly finds during her trash collecting walk along Prospect Lake Road between Burnside Road and the turn off to Munn Road. With a major uptick in traffic has come an increase in road side litter. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Volunteer garbage-picker regularly stuff bags with Prospect Lake Road litter

Resident says trash is an indicator of dangerous cut-through traffic

Shawn McKean picks up so much trash from the sides of Prospect Lake Road that she’s asked Saanich for special permission to leave additional garbage by her bin on collection day.

What really irks McKean is that it’s mostly cigarette butts, beer cans, mickey-sized alcohol bottles, and fast food packaging that she finds discarded by people passing through.

“Obviously we don’t know for sure if all the alcohol is from drivers but most of the cars coming through here are single [occupancy],” said McKean’s husband, Colin.

READ MORE: Volunteer needed to empty dog wasted can in Saanich park

McKean figures the waste comes from commuters who pass through the area on their way to work, school and home, rather than the local residents.

“I believe the litter is an indicator of a rise in commuter traffic passing through,” she said. “I collect garbage on the road every week to three weeks, depending, but I’ve had days where I come back inside and by the time I go out again there’s already trash by my driveway entrance,” she said.

McKean said she’s also not the only one and knows of a few people who regularly pick up trash along Prospect Lake Road.

“A lot of people give me a thumbs up, a wave, or a honk, when they see me with a bag and the litter picker,” she said.

However, it’s also become a dangerous road with drivers regularly careening over lines on blind corners, she said. Despite being a bike store owner and experienced cyclist, McKean won’t ride on Prospect Lake between 7 and 9 a.m. or between 3 and 5:30 p.m. Her house is only a minute down the hill from where a cyclist was fatally injured in 2017 when he crossed the centre line into a van.

READ MORE: Group wants Saanich to improve rural roads

“One time I was about to ride home from the [Dominion Observatory] but it was rush hour so I took West Saanich down to Interurban and then turned right on Burnside Road,” McKean said. “It was a much longer way but neither West Saanich and Burnside have the dangerous corners that Prospect Lake Road has [and Interurban has a bike lane].”

McKean has also been forced into the ditch by drivers while picking up garbage because there is very little shoulder on Prospect Lake Road.

“I had a woman yell at me, ‘Seriously, get out of the way, it’s rush hour!,’ and there I am picking up litter.”

Among McKean’s other concerns are that one of the cigarette butts could start a wild fire.

“We don’t have fire hydrants on Prospect Lake Road, we’re all on well water.”

Saanich said it monitors the traffic on Prospect Lake Road multiple times a year and the amount has only increased about one per cent per year from 2,400 vehicles per day in 2001 to 2,900 (last counted in spring of 2018).

“This is in line with what we would expect as the typical traffic volume growth rates in Saanich range from zero to 1.5 per cent depending on the street,” said Saanich spokesperson Kelsie McLeod. “Some areas are seeing a reduction in traffic as a result of more people choose alternate modes of transportation.”

However, as fellow Prospect Lake Road resident Mayor Fred Haynes pointed out, the type of travel for the area has likely changed.

“Living on Prospect Lake Road these past 12 years I am aware of the traffic issues,” Haynes said. “The road is well used. Certainly there are concerns raised by residents about traffic speeds and cut-through motorists.”

Haynes also said there is a growing concern with the intersection of Prospect Lake and West Saanich roads, where heavier traffic on West Saanich makes exit and entry into Prospect Lake Road and Sparton Road quite challenging. Saanich is moving forward on a study to look at the intersection with either a roundabout or traffics lights, Haynes said.

READ MORE: Roundabout could circulate traffic at West Saanich intersection

“To me, [McKean] is a tremendous reminder on how each of us can step up and in little ways do so much more to protect our environment,” said Haynes. “I am greatly impressed by this role model of selfless love of community.”

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