A man seen dumping and burning garbage near Gill bar in Chilliwack in 2014. Illegal dumping has become an epidemic in the Fraser River area.

A man seen dumping and burning garbage near Gill bar in Chilliwack in 2014. Illegal dumping has become an epidemic in the Fraser River area.

Fraser River cleanup in Chilliwack removes 20 tonnes of trash

Epidemic of illegal dumping a real problem but huge turnout of cleanup volunteers inspiring

The cleanup was a rousing success, but there is always more to do.

More than 450 community members from across the Fraser Valley came out on March 19 removing more than 20 tonnes of illegally dumped garbage from community green spaces and wilderness areas along a 10-kilometre stretch of the Fraser River through Chilliwack.

“We’re absolutely floored by the impact of this year’s cleanup and the tremendous support we’ve received from the community” said Joe Daniels of Fraser Riverkeeper, one of the organizers of the event along with Woodtone.

“These cleanups began in 2007 with just a small group of about a dozen volunteers. Since then they’ve grown to become some of the largest river cleanups in the Fraser Valley. It’s so inspiring to see so many people willing to devote their Saturday to cleaning up the wild places they love, and especially inspiring to see so many kids taking part in the effort as well.”

Organizers said the event was by far the most successful cleanup to date, nearly doubling the haul from 2015 and marking 80 tonnes of garbage removed from the Fraser River and the surrounding backcountry.

Illegal dumping is an epidemic problem in the Fraser Valley, threatening the recreational areas and wildlife habitat that is so popular. The event organizers hope that education through river cleanup events, reporting incentives, improved signage and general community awareness will help curb the trend of people dumping garbage next to rivers.

Included among the items volunteers cleaned up were mattresses, vehicle parts, spent ammunition, construction waste, a plethora of household garbage and hundreds of nails leftover from pallet fires. Everything was sorted and transported to the Bailey Landfill and CCon Metals for safe disposal or recycling with the help of crews from First Class Disposal, Alpine Waste, and BioCentral.

“It’s general knowledge within our community that this type of activity is illegal, and extremely detrimental to our local environment, fish, and wildlife,” said Kevin Raffle of Woodtone. “We all recreate in these areas, and everyone frowns upon this kind of behaviour. Through community events such as this, combined with continued educational outreach, we are keeping our message at the forefront of community topics. More people are talking about illegal dumping, and more people are watching the activities that go on in our local watershed and back country.”

The day wrapped up with a barbecue at Gill Bar provided by the folks at Restaurant 62 and the Chilliwack IGA, and a draw for free prizes donated by Great River Fishing Adventures, Inner Vision Yoga, Double D’s Custom Trucking, the Vancouver Aquarium, Woodtone, and Fraser Riverkeeper. Organizers also thanked the Chilliwack Water Store and Starbucks for providing refreshments; as well as to the Vancouver Aquarium’s AquaZone volunteers for providing fun and educational activities for kids and grown-ups alike.

Other companies that helped out include; Timbro Contracting, who provided a backhoe, heavy equipment operators, and First Aid staff for the event; Big K Clothing, who donated 200 high-vis safety vests to help keep volunteers safe; Jamie Davis Towing, who donated trucks and crews to help with the heavy lifting; Fraser Valley Salmon Society and Chilliwack-Vedder River Cleanup Society, who helped to organize the satellite cleanup crews; and to the team from the Freshwater Fisheries Society for coming out to lend a hand.

For those who missed the March 19 event, there’s still time to make a difference as the Chilliwack-Vedder River Cleanup Society, has organized another Adopt a River cleanup event in partnership with the City of Chilliwack and Fraser Valley Regional District that Saturday, April 16. Registration is between 8:30 and 9:30 am at the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve where free refreshments will be provided by Tim Hortons and the Chilliwack Water Store. Clean up will take place from 9:30 a.m. and noon. For more information visit www.cleanrivers.ca.