Thursday, March 27, 2014

Community News

Participating in Pristine

Gill Bar Cleanup April 5 a 'celebration of nature'

Released by Tyee Bridge, FRK/Voice file photos



sed annually by thousands of outdoor enthusiasts for fishing, ATV riding, camping and other activities, in recent years Gill Bar has been a target for illegal dumping.

But organizers of the annual April cleanup—who have pulled over 32 tonnes of garbage out of the woods and off the Fraser shoreline in the past seven years—believe the tide is turning.

“Thanks to everyone who has promoted this year’s cleanup online and in the community, we’re preparing for our biggest turnout ever,” says Kevin Raffle of Woodtone, a local company that has helped organize cleanups for the past seven years. “We’ve had as many as a hundred people show up, and this year we might break 150.”

The clean-up at the end of Gill Road is a rain-or-shine, family-friendly event sponsored by Woodtone, RBC, Rotz Disposal, the City of Chilliwack and many other partners, including a local Starbucks. It will feature coffee and pastries, free colouring books and a garbage “scavenger hunt” for kids. It culminates in a free barbecue for volunteers.

The 2014 clean-up marks the first year that the Crown lands at Gill Bar have been appointed with preventive signage: a provincial “No Dumping” sign warns of jail time and penalties from $575 to $1 million dollars, and a City of Chilliwack “Don’t Trash Our Future” sign advises of legal dumping facilities in the area.

The signs are the result of a joint effort by the City of Chilliwack, provincial recreation and conservation officials, and clean-up co-organizers Fraser Riverkeeper (FRK). The signs are a small step in what Tyee Bridge, FRK campaign director, calls a new “zero tolerance” policy in the valley for illegal dumping.

“More and more people are aware of the huge problems we have with illegal dumping in our recreational and natural spaces,” says Bridge. “They’re willing to turn out to these vital clean-ups more than ever, but they’re also getting fed up. They want to see illegal dumpers getting busted and facing stiff penalties.”

To that end, Ministry of Environment conservation authorities — who have jurisdiction over Crown land— are instituting surveillance measures at Gill Bar and other sites.

“The great thing is that these cleanups and the new enforcement efforts are the result of the community response,” says Woodtone’s Raffle. “Cleanup volunteers are saying with their actions how much they care about places like Gill, and about the kind of memories they want their kids to have. It’s a big ‘no’ to polluters and a big ‘yes’ to treating nature right, and enjoying it responsibly. These cleanups are a celebration that way.”

Volunteers are asked to bring boots, a refillable mug or water bottle (to fill up on Starbucks coffee, tea or water from the Chilliwack Water Store), and gloves if possible. 

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