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.

Just Posted

Local researcher hopes history can uncover an identity for Harrison

Veronique Astles believes Harrison has more history to uncover than just the resort

Variable speed limit system coming for Highway 3 near Hope

Congestion based system in testing phase between Chilliwack and Abbotsford by early 2020

Vent du Nord comes to Harrison for Season of Performing Arts

The francophone folk group will be performing Nov. 30

Salvation Army kettles return to Agassiz

The holiday fundraiser will be back in town for the month of December

Chilliwack Players Guild presents beloved classic ‘A Christmas Carol’

The Chilliwack Players Guild brings famous Dickens tale to life at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre

VIDEO: Agassiz, Harrison honour Remembrance Day

The annual ceremony took place at AESS, followed by a moment of silence at the Agassiz cenotaph

Yelling at your dog might hurt its long-term mental health: study

Researchers find dogs trained using negative reinforcement are more ‘pessimistic’

Vancouver Island soap company releases Lucky Lager beer soap

Beer-infused olive oil soap comes out just in time for holiday shopping

Jagmeet Singh says he’ll vote against throne speech if NDP requests not met

Singh is to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday

Community uses loophole to paint 16 rainbow crosswalks after B.C. council says no

So far 11 rainbows are painted and five planned, all since council denied the first proposal in September

Workers’ camp at LNG facility in Kitimat takes shape

Extensive worker camp now being assembled

Former B.C. youth pastor guilty on one of five sexual assault allegations

Judge cites reasonable doubt in finding Cloverdale couple not guilty of majority of charges

238 and counting: Vancouver gelato shop sets Guinness World record for most flavours

Vince Misceo has come up with 588 different flavours over the decades

Most Read