Tuesday June 15, 2010

Local News

CRV Grad Party Aftermath

Citizens tired of cleaning up after weekend warriors

Craig Hill/Voice  

n the May long weekend, Chilliwack River Valley was visited by a large group of grad students who spent the weekend renegade camping and partying past the Tamahi Rapids on Bench Road. When it was over, they left behind 160kg. of trash which included chairs, bottles and human waste.

The problem is renegade camping. Currently, a bylaw called "Section 58" states camping or parking along the river from Vedder bridge to Tamahi Rapids between the hours of 11pm-4am is forbidden. But enforcement of the bylaw ends at Tamahi and beyond that point to Chilliwack Lake it's been a free-for-all as people setup tents outside of designated campgrounds to save having to pay camping rates in provincial parks and private campgrounds.

On any given weekend, in the good weather, there are hundreds who bivouac along the river and up into the bush using Forestry Service roads. These renegade campers leave behind tons of trash and river cleanups have to be organized at various times throughout the year or the garbage accumulates.

After the weekend, on the following Tuesday morning, FVRD Electoral Area E Director, David Lamson and others were on their way up Chilliwack Lake Road to have a look at the proposed gravel pit mine site, when they came across the students. Lamson stopped and reconnoitered to find that the area was strewn with party trash.

According to reports, a park ranger who was also in attendance Tuesday morning asked the students to clean it up and said to just leave it piled up and that it would be taken care of.

Some of the students complied and picked up most of the trash, however when Lamson returned, he found that the students had just piled it up out of sight in the bushes and it still needed to be carted out.

President of Fraser Valley Salmon Society, Chris Gadsden, Lamson as well as Lew Chater from The Great Blue Heron Society and other concerned citizens, formed a cleanup group and later paid to dump 160kg at the city landfill.

"The incident on Bench Rd. a few days ago is a perfect example of not having any charges laid against those that left the mess," said Gadsden. "The Province presently have a littering fine of up to $2,000 that can be leveled, so why did the RCMP not press charges against the people they caught red handed littering the bush and roadway at their grad party?"

Gadsden continued by saying that "I know the culprits cleaned it up somewhat but a few of us had to go up and spend a couple of hours picking up the bags and more loose garbage and then loading it in a trailer."

It's an ongoing issue and according to Chilliwack River Valley Citizens on Patrol, Eileen Bradner, they have tried to get help to patrol the area but the police are strapped for manpower.

"The Citizens on Patrol first had to find someone who was willing to respond, not the RCMP, understandably they had more important issues than illegal campers, not the Conservation folks, they were not about during the night hours and party goers were generally not their problem, said Bradner in an e-mail.

And the problem is getting worse according to Bader.

"The top end of the Valley has received more garbage, more excrement, more devastation to forest, pathways, plants and wildlife since the inception of section 58 than previously. It happens during the week as well as weekends," said Bradner. "It took three years of phoning and generally being a nuisance before we managed to get the RCMP on our side, when they could spare anyone, and only now are we seeing a true presence but only on weekends or long weekends."

Bradner says the solution is to hire more full-time rangers doing a variety of tasks including education, or some other means to control the 3% of campers/partiers who simply dont care

"If section 58 is pushed up the Valley it will not stop this, it will simply spread it out further and further, more difficult to spot burnt out vehicles (three all ready that I am aware of this year), more difficult and dangerous to talk to everyone about cleaning up after themselves and more difficult to find left unattended fires" added Bradner.

CRV residents, Doug & Sue Petersen, wrote FVRD Parks Manager, Doug Wilson, asking to extend the Section 58 bylaw all the way up to Chilliwack Lake in an effort to keep vehicles and camping out of the riparian zones. "Anything to preserve the beauty, the habitat and to promote the recreational values of this wonderful corridor" they said told Wilson via e-mail.

"With the success of Sec. 58 between the Vedder and Tamihi Bridges, there has been community interest and support from the FVRD Board to pursue interest on considering the same level of protection along the entire Chilliwack River Valley," wrote Wilson.

Wilson said he was interested in meeting with local community groups to discuss extending the bylaw and it is not know if, or when, that meeting would take place.

Another idea being bandied about, is to start a campaign to have the area become a Provincial or National Park, which could also nip the gravel pit proposal in the bud, but could be very difficult to do.

Cpl. Lee-Anne Dunlop told the Voice in an e-mail that they do extra patrols on weekends and said that although RCMP members attended the grad party at Cedars, there was nothing to note which took place other than just kids partying.

"Our hope is that anyone visiting the area respects the environment and conducts themselves in a safe and responsible way," said Dunlop.

According to reports, some of the students were from Riverside Senior Sec. in Port Coquitlam, but that has not been confirmed.

The Voice sent e-mails to the two senior secondary schools in SD#43 district and to the city's mayor, Greg Moore, to ask if they had a policy regarding informing their graduation classes about the environmental impact that grad parties can have. In addition to that, the Voice asked if the schools would form student groups to do regular cleanups throughout the year in the CRV with a view that tidying up the area would drive home the environmental awareness factor in the youngsters.

To date Moore has not responded, nor has either school has owned-up to the CRV trashing or responded to the Voice's questions.

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