Two-year-old Zoey Millin came out with her mother

Chilliwack set to celebrate Earth Day this weekend

This coming weekend, Chilliwack residents are stepping outside to hold a wealth of free, family-friendly events to encourage green living.

This coming weekend, Chilliwack residents are stepping outside to hold a wealth of free, family-friendly events to encourage green living, and show how much the city cares about its environment. The events come just ahead of the official Earth Day on Monday, April 22.

First up this weekend is the busy second annual Earth Day celebration on Saturday, April 20. At Yarrow Pioneer Park, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., there will be live entertainment, pony rides, EcoVillage tours, demonstrations, and panel discussions. Local organic farmers, businesses and organizations will sell their products.

“This is a great way to learn how to garden, grow organic vegetables, meet your farmers and local artists and shop owners,” the organizing groups note on the event’s website. Visitors will need to bring either a donation, or a non-perishable food item for the local food bank.

Second up on the same day is the kick off for Food Matters Chilliwack’s Plant a Row, Grow a Row program, from 14 p.m. at the Salvation Army Thrift Store parking lot (45746 Yale Road). Gardening enthusiasts will hear from Brian Minter on growing popular vegetable crops, from Jack Kouwenhoven on amending the soil, and from FMC on converting a grass patch into a vegetable paradise. The first 100 names to register at 1 p.m. will receive a free garden starter seed kit. There will also be an area reserved for seed trading.

The weekend will also have plenty of opportunity for volunteers looking to give back, in a choice of three environmental cleanups. And if karma and warm weather aren’t enough of a draw, there’ll be plenty of free food too.

The Chilliwack Vedder River Cleanup Society is holding its twelfth annual river cleanup, meeting at the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve on Saturday, April 20, at 9 a.m. Last year, participants logged 2,464 volunteer hours to collect nearly six tonnes of garbage from the Chilliwack River sides, all garbage that may have washed into the Pacific Ocean. The Heron Reserve will also host drop-in activities from 12-4 p.m. that day, and a guided walk to see the heron colony at 2 p.m.

On the same day, the Fraser Riverkeeper is inviting residents to help remove garbage from the banks of the Fraser River, just in time to keep the high water of the spring freshet from carrying it out.

“Some people have been treating the river’s shores like a dumping ground, from beer cans and burn piles to appliances and bags of household trash,” said Fraser Riverkeeper campaign director Tyee Bridge in a release. “It’s a case of the few spoiling it for the many. Dumping ruins the ecosystem for everyone else, including salmon, eagles, and other wildlife as well as people.”

Since starting the event in 2008, the group and volunteers have cleaned up 26 tonnes of garbage. The event will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., meeting at Gill Bar, at the end of Gill Road, which is a popular recreational site and salmon-spawning area. Volunteers will be rewarded with a free salmon-steak barbecue.

The Vedder Mountain Trails Association is inviting residents to its thirteenth annual cleanup of the eastern side of Vedder Mountain on Sunday, April 21, at 9:30 p.m.

“It’s important because there is nobody else doing this work,” explained VMTA president Dr. Mark Steinebach.

Every year, volunteers collect the same amount of garbage, about 7–10 tonnes. Despite not seeing a reduction, Steinebach is confidant that the cleanup is well worth it.

“We still feel encouraged to do this work…because each year, we’re seeing more and more people become involved, and we’re seeing a fairly large contingent of kids, of teenagers and youth, involved,” he said.

Steinebach hopes that by raising awareness about dumping, the problems it causes, and the herculean effort required to clean it up, illegal dumping will become something that you just don’t do.

“There’ll be an overwhelming abhorrence for this kind of dumping, and that eventually it will decline, and hopefully stop completely,” he said.

There will be food for volunteers, and the second half of cleanup day will focus on trail maintenance.

A couple of weeks ago, twenty-six volunteers cleaned up the western, Majuba Hill Road side of Vedder Mountain. They hauled all the construction material debris, household waste, and thousands of spent shells to the City of Chilliwack dump. All the volunteers left proud that a couple of hours of work on a rainy Saturday resulted in a pristine mountainside.

For all cleanups, organizing groups will generally provide tools and safety equipment, but it’s always good to bring your own gloves and tools as well.

New this year, the City of Chilliwack has declared April to be “Earth Month.”

“We brand the month of April as ‘Earth Month’ in Chilliwack. This gives us all an opportunity to demonstrate our stewardship in the way we look after our beautiful city. There are many opportunities to help clean up our community,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz, who confirmed that she will attend the Chilliwack River clean up, as well as the Earth Day events at Yarrow Pioneer Park.

The city’s popular Spring Pitch-In program is ongoing this year, drawing hundreds of volunteers to pick up litter at the roadside and city parks. Last year, about 60 groups received the city’s $100 grant for participating in the program. Around six hundred volunteers collected 8.5 tonnes of roadside waste, including 291 car tires that were illegally dumped. The city also organized with non-profits to collect 18 tonnes of large, bulky items, such as no longer usable furniture, from homes.

The city is also accepting scrap metal for free at the Bailey Landfill throughout April.

And on Sunday, April 21, residents can pick up free compost from noon until 4 p.m. at Parr Road Green Depot.

On Earth Day itself, Monday, April 22, Rosedale Middle School students are screening the award-winning 2010 documentary about the hazards of plastic bags, Bag It, at 7 p.m., at the school.

The city will again host its city-wide garage sale on May 11. Sellers need to register their items online by May 5.

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