Chris Gadsden, one of the founders of the Chilliwack-Vedder Cleanup Society, checks the debris. (Orion Engar photo)

VIDEO: Regional district calling on province to help remove garbage from Chilliwack homeless camp

River stewards are appealing for help with the huge mess before it’s washed away in Chilliwack River

A director with the Fraser Valley Regional District is appealing for urgent help from the provincial government to deal with garbage and debris from homeless camps in the Chilliwack River Valley.

The topic has been raging on social media for days with concerns that high water could wash the litter and discarded items into the Chilliwack-Vedder River system.

“Community members have been expressing their anger at the inability for any level of government to get the ongoing situation dealt with,” Orion Engar, FVRD Area E director told The Progress. “I’m trying to find a way to get that stuff cleaned up.”

There still may be people in the camp, which is on Crown land, so officials have not removed the items.

But residents are fed up with the endless thieving, break-ins, and hard drug use associated with the camps.

The huge mess created by homeless squatters was discovered by local river stewards after crossing a stream to get to the little island, east of the Vedder bridge, near the mouth of Sweltzer Creek.

The area was littered with camping items, clothing, and garbage, according to photos and video taken by Chris Gadsden, one of the founders of the Chilliwack-Vedder Cleanup Society.

The main concern is heavy rain in the forecast.

“A high water event that will certainly come will be an environmental disaster,” Gadsden said, as much of the trash and debris will get washed downstream.

One of the last major encampment cleanups at Teskey Rock a couple of years ago by the province employed a helicopter to hoist all the garbage out of the area.

READ MORE: More than 1,000 used needles removed

“Of course that cleanup cost the taxpayers a lot of money,” Gadsden said.

The 2017 cleanup was undertaken by Natural Resource Officers from the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD), accompanied by RCMP and Griffin Security

Water levels will be rising once the rains return by the weekend, and the campsite was one of many found near on the Chilliwack river in the past few weeks.

Crossing the creek to clear out the mess could also be a safety issue for some.

“What should be done is once these camps start to get set up, they should be stopped to prevent the pollution this causes to our precious river systems here in the valley and beyond,” Gadsden said.

Engar said he would like to see provincial officials “address gaps” in their response to rural homelessness and that was the essence of resolution B183, which was prepared for this year’s Union of B.C. Municipalities Conference, but it didn’t make it to the floor, said Engar.

READ MORE: FVRD ask for help with homeless camps on Crown land

”We are kind of struggling with the fact that the NROs have referred it to BC Housing because there are folks living in that area, but they disappear during the day,” Engar said. “I’ve asked our MLA to get involved, he is talking to FLNRORD. I’m trying to phone BC Housing and got three different people who don’t know anything.”

The creek is knee-high in places and flowing fast.

“We are going to need some sturdy fishermen to cross the creek on that island in the mouth of the Sweltzer Creek area,” Engar said. “It just baffles me after all of my beating of the drum – at FLNRORD saying we need more boots on the ground they are not going to move these people along… I know these people have complex issues, and there is never a one-size-fits-all solution.”

It may be that provincial officials have decided to no longer implement a two week limit on Crown land squatting.

“The province is very slow to intervene when these camps get established,” Engar added. “The compassion is wearing pretty thin for people who are leaving junk around and degrading the environment.”


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Cloverdale students make puzzles for care home residents

Students from Cloverdale’s Sunrise Ridge delivered gifts to seniors and thank you notes to first responders

Pedestrian struck by bus in uptown White Rock

Collision occurred at North Bluff Road and Johnston Road

Intent of killing at centre of Surrey man’s West Kelowna murder trial

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Allison Beames is anticipated to return with her decision in August

PHOTOS: South Surrey tractor project evokes ‘$1-million smile,’ helps connect neighbours

Retired Surrey firefighter Ron Henze began project for friend’s dad to fill time during pandemic

Surrey man facing charges related to child pornography

Elazar Reshef, 52, has worked in the Delta School District

13 new B.C. COVID-19 cases, Langley Lodge outbreak ends

Health care outbreaks down to four, 162 cases active

Greater Vancouver home sales start to tick up, with prices holding steady

Residential sales last month reached 2,443, a 64.5 per cent jump from May

Langley Lodge’s deadly outbreak declared over

Fraser Health and long-term care home administrator confirm Friday declaration

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

A persistent low pressure system over Alberta has led to several days of heavy rain

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

Search continues for person seen floating in Coquihalla River in Hope

Rescuers halted the search Thursday night as darkness fell

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

White-throated sparrows have changed their tune, B.C. study unveils

Study marks an unprecedented development scientists say has caused them to sit up and take note

Most Read