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Being the solution: Father-son duo keep lake clean

by Elena Johnson
| May 27, 2020 1:30 PM

Weston Cederblom and son Landon like to find trash on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Because when they don’t, that means the debris is somewhere else, and won’t get picked up during one of their rounds.

“I want my son to be able to experience the same lake that I grew up with,” said Cederblom, a professional photographer, “and the only way we can really do that is to protect it, clean it.”

Every week during the summer season, the father-son duo go out on Lake Coeur d’Alene and sometimes Fernan Lake for an hour or two to pick up what they find.

“I like cleaning up the lake,” Landon said.

The 10-year-old has been picking up trash along the lake and other high traffic areas such as Tubbs Hill with his father since 2017, and says he will probably continue lifelong.

However, the habit came about by accident.

One summer evening in 2017, the two were out jet skiing when they crossed paths with a floating pile of trash that was “hard to ignore.”

“So we started cleaning it up,” Cederblom said.

Finding more on the way home, they gathered enough to fill up the Jet Ski that night.

“We were kind of surprised by it, so we went back the next weekend and it was pretty much the same-sized patch, just a little bit further down the way,” he added.

The pair continued to pick up debris every Monday, Weston’s day off, for about six weeks until Landon went back to school that year. They estimate they collected about 120 pounds of waste in that time.

“We’d actually get kind of bummed when we didn’t find the trash, because we knew it was there,” Cederblom said.

“We just knew we were looking in the wrong spot or the wind was different that day and blew it further down the river.”

Their passion project is called Coeur d’Love, as is the business and gallery dedicated to supporting their cleanup efforts.

To date, Landon and Weston have logged at least 35 hours cleaning up the lake alone, in addition to their cleanup efforts in the area’s other high-traffic natural playgrounds.

Cederblom suspects much of the junk accumulates from boaters. If Dad hits the throttle, anything can go flying out unnoticed. From there, the wind appears to sweep up debris and deposit it in similar spots on the lake.

Perhaps it’s also something to be expected in high-volume areas, particularly during tourist season.

“Wherever there’s people, there’s trash,” Cederblom reasoned. “More people equals more trash.”

In addition to common waste such as water bottles, beer cans, and cigarette butts, the two have found golf balls, hats, car parts and even tires.

“We’ll always find some car parts for whatever reason,” he said. “We always find a tire.”

Because of picnics, boating, and other activities and accidents, the accumulation is ongoing.

“Wherever we cleanup we come back again sometimes,” Landon said. “And we see more trash.”

“It’s not like a massive issue like the Pacific Ocean garbage but it’s like a consistent problem that’s always there,” said Cederblom. “Especially in the summer time.”

Cederblom says it accumulates around marinas, boat launches, Higgens Point, as well as by and around Tubbs Hill, especially on Mondays – after weekend outings. Although this year’s large cleanup event for Earth Day was canceled, Weston and Landon spent over three hours gathering enough broken glass to fill a one-gallon jug around Tubbs Hill.

Afterward, Landon said he hoped they “saved someone a trip to the hospital this summer.”

Three-day and holiday weekends in particular tend to bring in more trash. For last year’s Memorial Day weekend, the pair cleaned up half a truck’s worth of trash, only to find more the next week.

“And we go back the next week and one of the places we go was already trashed again with like a complete 12 beer can crushed set,” Cederblom said.

“It is consistent every single week.”

This doesn’t deter them, however.

“If we don’t clean it up then there’s going to be a whole pile,” Landon said. “If we do, then there’s not.”

Landon is excited to continue this year, while Weston has bigger goals in mind.

In addition to organizing cleanup events and focusing on areas in need, Cederblom is in the process of changing the business’ status from LLC to non-profit to encourage businesses and individuals to donate and get involved. The business already sells stickers and other merchandise to help fund cleanups.

Funds raised will allow for cleanup initiatives to grow. In order to do larger events, volunteers need to be equipped with reusable burlap bags and protective gloves. Cederblom hopes to raise funds in the future to cover that, and to purchase organizers to separate recyclable debris.

“Everything’s pretty much been coming out of my pocket so far,” he said.

Funds could also support another upcoming Coeur d’Love project.

“Our big 2021 goal is getting garbage and recycling cans at all the main boat launches on the north end of the lake,” he said.

For those looking to get involved, progress and group cleanups are announced on their Facebook and Instagram pages. Cederblom also hopes to create a digital map noting which areas have been cleaned and which need more focus.

For those cleaning up on their own, Cederblom suggests posting pictures of their work on social media to encourage others.

Located in the Innovation Den, the Coeur d’Love gallery features Cederblom’s photographs of local landscapes. Just opened before the governor’s stay-at-home order, the gallery has already been featured in May’s Virtual Art Walk. Purchases will fund cleanups around the lake.

Together with the nonprofit, Cederblom hopes his photography will “show people the problems that exist” while also highlighting the area’s beauty.

“We’re really just looking forward to getting the community involved in multiple different ways.”

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Landon Cederblom after a cleanup of the north end of Lake Coeur d’Alene on Memorial Day 2019. Weston Cederblom says trash proliferates around boat launches and other popular areas along the lake.

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Volunteers Brent Westgarth and Trey Bartoo after a cleanup around Blue Creek Bay, Wolf Lodge area and Fernan Lake.

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Landon and Weston Cederblom followed their Memorial Day 2019 cleanup with a canoe trip.

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On a camping trip to Kauai last December, the Cederbloms and friends gathered more than 400 pounds of fishing debris. Pictured is Savannah McVay, Clint Crow and Landon Cederblom. “I’m trying to show him that not only do we have to take care of our hometown but we have to take care of the places we go as well,” said Weston Cederblom. (Courtesy photos)