Part of Chilliwack as seen from Elk Mountain. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress file)

Part of Chilliwack as seen from Elk Mountain. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress file)

COLUMN: Chilliwack’s growing pains need to be addressed

Positive growth is happening all over the city but can we keep up with services?

In case you haven’t noticed, Chilliwack is growing.

But is it bursting at the seams faster than we can keep up?

More people are still moving to the west coast from the rest of Canada as they have for decades. More people are coming to Canada, particularly the west coast.

And more people have been realizing that Metro Vancouver is just too expensive so there is a boomerang effect as they then head east to Burnaby and Coquitlam and Surrey.

Then they find even those communities too expensive. Chilliwack might just be the last bastion of urban affordability from the Salish Sea to Spuzzum.

(Although even Chilliwack is getting unaffordable with the average selling price of a home up to $525,000 last month from $384,000 in March 2016.)

• READ MORE: Chilliwack real estates sales still slumping as prices stay steady

People are moving here. I know, I know, thanks Captain Obvious.

With the growth comes some really positive changes in the works across the city in Sardis, in the Vedder Crossing area, the Eastern Hillsides, and critically, in the heart of downtown.

The navel-gazing critics of crime rates and homelessness who don’t realize these are issues everywhere in the western world will never be satisfied. But change is good. Growth is natural.

But are we are able to keep up?

Various news stories in recent days point to a city that is growing, just maybe a little too fast.

(A mid-column warning: This column has questions, no answers.)

Some examples: the vast majority of the growth is on the south side of the city, yet the B.C. Ambulance Service station is next to city hall on Young Road. Are ambulances being dispatched in as timely a fashion as is needed to Promontory and Sardis? I’ve heard anecdotes to suggest this might occasionally be an issue.

Fire crews? Stay tuned for more on this in the future, but some halls often only have two firefighters on duty. On a call to a structure fire, four are needed to enter the building so two just doesn’t cut it.

An (arguably) less-important subject: swimming lessons. Did you get your kids in? Our family tried with our two kids. We got one child in but the other, not a chance even just 24 hours after registration opened. Swimming isn’t just about recreation, It’s a life skill. It’s important.

Speaking of kids, are your kids in a portable? Not that there’s anything wrong with them, truly, but the over-capacity of Chilliwack’s public schools is at staggering proportions. So much so that plans for a southside school are a little like putting a tourniquet on a bleeding jugular.

• READ MORE: Number of portables in Chilliwack to push 100 by fall

Speaking of blood, then there is the hospital. After reporter Jessica Peters wrote a column about her experience in the ER, we’ve had others complain about Fraser Health’s changes, the B.C. Nurses Union responded, and others who work at CGH confirm the situation is dire. Some suggest Fraser Health is ignoring CGH despite population growth. I don’t know.

• READ MORE: COLUMN: Changes in the ER wait room may be causing more grief than good

The city is a sausage from Fairfield Island to Vedder Crossing, squeezed in the middle by the Agricultural Land Reserve, so we have to densify or head to the hills. In reality, both. I’ve been in town just 13 years, but since 2006 the population has increased from about 69,000 to about 90,000. That’s big change.

Chilliwack is a real city, a growing one and with that comes all the good and all the bad. There is no point in longing for the supposed good ol’ days. There is no going back.

Former mayor Sharon Gaetz was once criticized for blaming the increasing homeless problem in Chilliwack on growing pains.

The problem with that criticism is that Gaetz was mostly right.

I once asked Vancouver homeless advocate Judy Graves about that comment and she, too, agreed.

“She is right, which does not mean we should accept it,” Graves said.

• READ MORE: Judy Graves says the problem of homelessness is simple: The availability of housing

Realtors know it. City hall knows it. The school district knows it. Firefighters and paramedics and cops know it.

Growing pains are inevitable, but the results are worse if gone unrecognized.

I just hope those in charge of decision-making on the above issues and others can keep up.


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


Judy Graves talking about homelessness in Chilliwack during a 2016 interview with reporter Paul Henderson. (Greg Laychak/Black Press file)

Judy Graves talking about homelessness in Chilliwack during a 2016 interview with reporter Paul Henderson. (Greg Laychak/Black Press file)

COLUMN: Chilliwack’s growing pains need to be addressed

COLUMN: Chilliwack’s growing pains need to be addressed

Just Posted

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Jan. 24

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

A mallard duck swims through Salish Pond in Chilliwack on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Snow, rain in forecast for Fraser Valley

Fraser Valley has been treated to more than a week of mostly sunny weather, but it’s about to end

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

VIDEO: Mission drag racer scores 1st career win, sets world record, makes history in 2020

Justin Bond, founder and owner of JBS Equipment, hits milestones in break-out year

Cory Silbernagel makes his acceptance speech after receiving the Community Advocate award during the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce 2020 Chilliwack Champion awards on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce)
Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce awards recognize businesses, individuals after unprecedented year

‘Positive acts’ honoured during Business Excellence Awards - Chilliwack Champions Edition

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Surrey Fire Service responded to a fire in the industrial area of 192nd street and 54th Avenue early Saturday morning (Jan. 23, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey crews respond to fire in industrial area

Fire happened early Saturday morning

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

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

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Most Read