Dave Terleski says that this year’s crop of transient cherry pickers are the tidiest group he has seen during his time in Creston.
Terleski is a familiar sight in and around Creston. Bearded, deeply tanned and wearing shorts for most of the year, he can be seen walking in and around town, stopping to pick up litter wherever he goes.
“A few years ago they left messes everywhere,” he said, speaking about his observations about transient workers. “Last year was much better, and this year it is amazing. I am hardly finding any garbage to pick up where they have been. Now if we could just get the locals to behave the same.”
Since relocating to Creston from Saskatchewan, Terleski has been one of the area’s most recognizable pedestrians. And it isn’t only because he has a particularly dislike for litter and litterers. Surgery on his injured back, the result of years working in a scrap metal yard, gave him some relief.
“That lasted for about 15 years,” he said. “But it has got progressively worse.”
Terleski declined an invitation to sit and chat.
“I even lie down at home to eat,” he said, adding that at restaurants, he stands up to take his meals.
Walking isn’t his only way of combatting back pain. Most days he ends up down on the banks of the Goat River, where he takes a plunge to ease the discomfort.
He has regular routes that eventually lead to the river, making certain days his garbage pickup routine for Gleaners parking lot, Centennial Park, Highway 21 and along the railway tracks.
“I used to be a hunting guide in Saskatchewan,” he said. “ We would always find beer cans, shopping bags and the like, and I always picked them up.”
He doesn’t profit financially from his activity. A friend (Terleski doesn’t have a vehicle) picks up bags of cans and bottles and delivers them to the recycling centre, where the refunds are directed to the Pet Adoption and Welfare Society.
“They do good work,” he said.
And his Good Samaritan work isn’t restricted to dry land. He routinely hauls junk out of the Goat River.
“I have pulled out microwaves, washers, dryers, stoves, TVs and VCRs,” he said. “It is disgusting that people use the river for a dump.”
Lately, he said, he has been finding rusted-out old car frames that were used to shore up the banks of Goat River as far back as the 1930s. As erosion exposes the metal, it becomes a hazard to swimmers and people who float downstream on tubes.
He described a pile of scrap metal he has stacked behind a large rock on the bank near Goat Canyon Road.
“I take a hammer and chisel into the water and break off pieces that I can haul to the bank,” he said.
A scrap metal dealer collects the material when Terleski amasses a sufficient amount to make the drive worthwhile.
As much as he dislikes unsightly litter, though, it’s the hazards that items can pose, especially to children, that keep him vigilant.
“Downstream from the Goat River Bridge on Highway 21 I found a local party place where people apparently enjoy throwing bottles onto the rocks to break them. I have even found broken glass on the sandy beach where kids play.”
Terleski makes it clear that his mission to the Advance office is not to complain.
“These young cherry pickers have earned a bad reputation for the mess they leave each year,” he said. “But I want people to know that this year there has been a huge change, and they deserve our thanks for it.”