Travel-starved Quebecers have been flocking to the sandy beaches of Gaspésie for pandemic staycations during the annual construction holiday. But they've been leaving an alarming amount of garbage around and the mayor is sick of it. "We don't know what's happening this year," said Town of Gaspé Mayor Daniel Côté on Thursday. "It's like we're living in a nightmare."
Côté said the situation on the beaches has been "hell since the beginning of the summer."
Every day, he gets dozens of messages from concerned locals about the piles of trash and illegally parked vehicles on the beaches near his community, which sits at the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, leaving the shore littered with garbage.
In addition, people are camping illegally in marshes, parking lots, provincial lands, and protected areas, he said.
While most visitors are cleaning up after themselves, a few bad apples, "incapable of offering a minimum of respect for our environment," are ruining the fun for everyone, he said.
The situation has gotten so bad that municipal authorities have even considered closing roads to beaches — but they won't be doing that for fear of making life more difficult for local residents and fishermen, he said.
Municipal authorities have taken a number of steps to fight the worsening scourge of trash.
Signage has gone up where camping is forbidden, though some thoughtless folks have been "camping out in front of the signs," said Côté.
So, the community is taking a more hands-on approach.
Triste de constater que Gaspé et les environs se réveillent en lendemain de veille beaucoup trop régulièrement ces… https://t.co/iepMXpc8bk
Starting Thursday, "beach squads" tasked with ensuring people are respecting rules and the environment will be patrolling the area.
The squads will have no formal legal authority to punish wrongdoers but they'll be able to report illegal activity to police, explained Côté.
The trash pileup has been an ongoing problem throughout the region.
On Thursday, Les Méchins, a town on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, announced that a number of people have been driving to the beach and emptying their RV's right onto the sand.
In a July 23 statement, the Mi'gmaq Gespeg Nation said it deplored the "current situation regarding the unregulated backcountry camping on its territory, which has become out of control."
"On the beaches, washed up wood, which is important for slowing erosion, is being burned without knowledge of its consequences. Migratory birds are being disturbed on their nesting grounds. We cannot even keep track of the amount of waste that litters the waters, the beaches, the parking lots, and rest areas," the Nation said.
Méganne Perry Mélançon, the MNA for Gaspé, called the situation "disastrous" and is demanding action to control it.