UPDATED: Are big bins a bear necessity on Heritage Mountain?

The city of Port Moody will spend $20,000 over the next two years to make the city’s residents more bear smart.

But at its meeting Tuesday, city council agreed with a staff report recommending it hold off on an additional expenditure of $675,000 to set up a pilot centralized solid waste bin system in Heritage Woods.

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In his report to council, Port Moody’s environmental technician, Kurt Frei, said the $20,000 would be spent on expanding and updating communication materials such as signs, the Bear Essentials page on the city's website and community outreach activities. Frei also said the city could recoup as much as $3,000 of that budget with provincial funding that will become available when Port Moody is officially recognized as a Bear Smart community.

The city has already completed half the criteria required to achieve such a designation, including the preparation of a bear hazard assessment and the implementation of Bear Smart bylaws that prohibit the provision of food to bears because of improper or neglectful storage of waste. It’s currently in the process of developing a human-bear conflict management program.

According to data collected by WildsafeBC, bear sightings in Port Moody are up 137% this year. The city has also issued 92 tickets to residents for putting their garbage carts out for collection prior to 5:30 a.m., and another nine residents received tickets for leaving their carts out on non-collection days.

Frei said the city faces several challenges if it wants to start a centralized solid waste bin system that would require approximately 20 centralized bins to service 381 homes in Heritage Woods. Those include requiring residents to separate all their waste into three streams, then transporting it as much as 125 metres from their homes to the centralized bins, as well as the need for specialized equipment to collect waste from them.

Frei said while such a system would “significantly reduce bear interaction issues” in the neighbourhood, it could also “result in a lower level of solid waste service to residents.”

A consultant’s report commissioned by the city to study the potential for a centralized solid waste pilot program also said a similar system that has been in place in Canmore, Alta. for 20 years received considerable pushback from residents concerned about where the centralized collection bins were placed, and illegal dumping at the sites is an ongoing issue.

— with files from Gary McKenna

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