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

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

Just Posted

Maple Ridge’s Bruce Coughlan. (Special to The News)
Robbie Burns day to be feted virtually by Maple Ridge musician

Bruce Coughlan will hold virtual concert in Campbell River theatre in honour of Scottish bard

Naturally Splendid employees working at a flow wrapper station at its facility in Pitt Meadows (Special to The News)
Plant-based Pitt Meadows business pivots during pandemic

Naturally Splendid partners with Australian company on bringing meat substitute to Canada

Submit letters to the editor through our website, via email or in writing.
LETTER: Resident sad to see worsening Maple Ridge litter problem

A local letter writer said her concerns have fallen on deaf ears

Gordy Robson. (Contributed)
The intersection at Harris Road and Lougheed Highway (Google)
LETTER: Pitt Meadows resident wonders why traffic signals not updated

A local man has contacted the city and road contractor with concerns to no avail

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage addresses the attendees while Tom Olsen, Managing Director of the Canadian Energy Centre, looks on at a press conference at SAIT in Calgary on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Fulmes
‘Morally and ethically wrong:’ Court to hear challenge to Alberta coal policy removal

At least 9 interveners will seek to join a rancher’s request for a judicial review of Alberta’s decision

Pindie Dhaliwal, one of the organizers for the Surrey Challo protest for Indian farmers. She says organizers were told by Surrey RCMP that the event was not allowed due to COVID-19. Organizers ended up moving the protest to Strawberry Hill at the last minute. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Indian farmers rally moves as organizers say Surrey RCMP told them they couldn’t gather

Protest originally planned in Cloverdale, moved to Strawberry Hill

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

sdf
Another Mission student arrested for assault, in 2nd case of in-school violence this week

RCMP notified of local Instagram page with videos (now deleted) showing student assaults, bullying

(Photo by Kevin Hill)
40 cases linked to Surrey Memorial Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

Fraser Health says two death are associated with the outbreak

Most Read