THE EAGLE’S NEST IS A NATURAL TREASURE, AND A HANDFUL OF PEOPLE ARE WRECKING IT
High above the head of Bedford Basin, overlooking Long Cove, is the Eagle’s Nest. The Mi’kmaq call the area Kitpukusisek, which means “at the eagle’s nest.” One can easily imagine the area’s original inhabitants admiring the eagles soaring over the unspoiled wilderness before European settlers arrived. It offers spectacular views amidst one of Nova Scotia’s finest sylvan settings.
“It’s very pretty up there,” says Bedford resident Erika Proctor. “It’s very natural because it’s not widely used.”
But after hours, it’s a popular teen hangout and that’s when the mess happens.
Now, it’s a launching pad used by drunken teenagers who want to throw garbage off a cliff. It’s in view of one of the city’s ritzier neighbourhoods, with one home at the end of Shore Drive boasting a private golf hole and a dock. The juxtaposition of trash and opulence is jarring, especially since this is not your garden variety littering, even though there is plenty of that, too. This is littering on steroids.
At the base of the cliff, strewn about a field of rocks, are the mangled remains of sundry appliances, bicycles, patio tables, basketball nets, paint cans, and tires.
Proctor, who walks her dog in the area, says she was surprised when she saw the garbage on a recent hike. “It was disappointing to see all that stuff,” she says. “It’s just stuff that people dragged into the woods and tossed off that cliff. It’s disgusting. It’s beyond littering, it’s contaminating.”
Donna Lugar, who grew up in Bedford, says it’s been a teen hangout for as long as she can remember. “That area was always a spot to go,” she says. “People sit up there. They drink or smoke and there are articles of clothing, so they obviously do other stuff up there.”
It’s a great place to watch the sunset, take in the scenery, or just get some solitude and fresh air in the daytime. It’s also a popular rock-climbing location and the go-to spot for after-work climbs in the city. With all those things going for it, the garbage dump at the bottom of the cliff baffles Lugar.
“I can’t imagine someone going through all that effort,” Lugar says. “You wouldn’t go all that way just to dispose of a non-functioning appliance. Why would you do that? Unfortunately, there’s always someone that gets a thrill out of breaking things.”
Proctor adds that it shows a lack of education. “[The kids] are not thinking about what is left,” she says. “They see it explode, and they turn back to whatever they’re doing.”
Proctor has teenagers of her own. “That’s typical when you get a bunch of kids together,” she says. “They can’t be seen and no one can catch them because they know that they’re deep into the woods. It’s a waste, because at some point someone is going to have to clean all that up.”
When contacted about this story, Bedford Councillor Tim Outhit sighs. “It’s ridiculous,” he says. “It’s a beautiful area. Why would you carry it up there? That’s crazy to throw something off a cliff just to see it fall and break.”
Outhit says HRM Parks staff go in there occasionally to clear things out, but he was concerned about the appliances and other garbage, which he didn’t see on a hike there before Christmas. He asked to see pictures so he could share them with staff.
Outhit doesn’t consider this the same kind of dumping that one sees in rural areas where people are just trying to avoid tipping fees.
“This is more of a littering and vandalism problem,” says Outhit.
Whatever you call it, it’s ugly and potentially harmful to the environment because of the contaminants in the appliances and cans of paint, not to mention the shards of glass. Both are harmful to the wildlife in the greenbelt. It also mars a beautiful natural location.
“I like the fact that people go in there and enjoy the view,” says Outhit, who is working on a plan to improve the park and is looking for public input. One of the things he would like to see, in addition to a clean-up of the garbage, is some kind of upgrade to the trails.
Proctor fears drawing attention to the dumping might inspire copycats, but hopes some different tactics might curb the behaviour that’s been going on for years.
Outhit says the police already patrol the area and respond to noise complaints from partying teenagers. “I’ve asked police to monitor the area for gatherings,” he says. “But I’ve never asked for an enforcement or investigation.”
When asked if police have ever set up wildlife cameras to catch the perpetrators in the act, he says it’s not something he’s requested, but would look into it.
“I would certainly love to deter it and find out who’s doing it,” Outhit says.
How to deter the perpetrators is the challenge, though.
“I don’t know how to change that kind of attitude, because you’re always going to have those kinds of kids,” Proctor says.
Perhaps a poster that speaks to them in their own terms might work, she says.
“‘This is a beautiful place to visit and share. Please respect it by cleaning up after yourself. If you like being up here, and you like the freedom, then don’t draw so much attention to yourself by littering.’”
If teenagers want to be able to use the space without being monitored, they might stop tossing trash after hearing this message, she says.
She likes the idea of reminding kids they could get caught. “Kids think they’re going to get away with it because everybody else has done it or talked about it,” Proctor says.
Proctor thinks it would be great if some environmentally conscious students at Charles P. Allen High School could take this on as a project and raise awareness of the harmful effects of dumping. This would be peers targeting peers because she thinks it’s local kids.
“Why would anyone from Sackville, or wherever, drag themselves out here and drag garbage into Bedford?” Proctor says. “I’m sure there are lots of places there where they toss things.”
Proctor hopes residents, some of whom are parents of the perpetrators, put some pressure on them to stop. “I know those people really take pride in their homes and their location,” she says. “It’s a nice asset to Bedford.”