Erin Balfour has been living in the area for three decades and enjoying the peaceful walks on the dikes of Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge for the last three years, until a couple of Sundays ago.
Balfour was walking on the dike just north of 216th Street when she saw a hunter blasting away at some ducks in the ditch below. The man was on the main walkway of the dike and shooting downward at the birds.
Balfour was shook up enough that she walked with one of her dogs around the long way to get off the dikes and back to her vehicle.
“I had no idea you could hunt here. It just seems so close to everybody.”
The hunter wasn’t far from a nearby blueberry farm. “I can’t believe they haven’t complained.”
Balfour called police, who got there quickly and checked the man’s hunting licence and let him go.
They told her she should have known it’s a hunting area, but Balfour says there are no signs posted that can warn hikers, runners or cyclists that their temporary escapes in the outdoors can be shattered by shotgun blasts.
Signs leading on to the dikes posted by the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows parks and leisure services provide a lengthy list of dos and don’ts for users, in small print, but does not mention hunting.
“I cannot believe that anyone thinks that’s not stupid and dangerous. There are two farms, many homes and the equestrian centre, right there,” Balfour said in an e-mail.
She adds that most people walking their dogs and pushing their strollers don’t even know.
According to Pitt Meadows operations superintendent Randy Evans, duck and goose (mallards and Canada geese) hunting is allowed through much of Pitt Meadows, providing a hunter has Fraser Valley Special Area Hunting Licence. Only shotguns are allowed.
Evans said Pitt Meadows is the diking authority for some dikes in Maple Ridge, although some are under the authority of the Trethewey-Edge diking district, where Balfour likely saw the hunter.
Evans added that each municipality can decide where within its boundaries it will allow hunting. The activity is currently allowed throughout most of Pitt Meadows, with only the built-up area of the city and some strips along the Alouette River dikes where hunting is not allowed.
Parts of eastern Maple Ridge are also open to hunting, according to the Ministry of Environment’s map.
“A good percentage of Pitt Meadows is open for hunting,” Evans said.
He usually only receives a couple complaints a year and said that hunters need permission from the landowner before they enter property for hunting purposes.
According to Pitt Meadows’ Discharge of Firearms bylaw, hunting can take place on dikes, unless prohibited, as illustrated in the map that’s part of the bylaw.
No hunting is allowed from the dike along the Alouette River or for a portion of the dike that runs along the Pitt River, just north of the Alouette River.
Every year the city’s resource management committee reviews areas where hunting is allowed.
Evans said that meeting will take place some time in spring and could result in changes to the areas or in asking the recreation department to post signs. More people are using the dikes each year.
Pitt Meadows council has the final decision, he pointed out.
While some people want to stop hunting, Evans said, some want it to continue, such as local farmers, who like to see ducks and geese populations controlled to minimize crop losses.