Some Chilliwack River Valley residents are exasperated that provincial agencies seems unwilling or unable to crack down on a now notorious camp of squatters causing public health, safety and environmental problems at Borden Creek.
The hosts at the Thurston Meadows campground were once held at knife point by homeless residents of the encampment. There have been thefts from campers, and the hosts, Nat and Linda Turner, are constantly finding used syringes, garbage and human waste on the trails and in the fire pits.
For months, environmental and safety complaints to officials have gone unanswered.
And while all of this has been extremely frustrating for valley residents and the camp hosts, there is even more.
On July 13, a camper was attacked by a large dog from a homeless camp and “severely bitten” on his buttocks. The next day another camper was attacked by a group of dogs, but managed to avoid a bite.
With kids frequently riding bikes along the Trans Canada Trail between the campground and the squatters, the latter issue is Linda Turner’s biggest concern.
“The thing I’m worried about is the dogs,” Linda said during a chat this week at the campground. “Kids like to ride with their parents, but they ride up ahead. There are five Rottweilers in there.”
Patricia Furness is in charge of the recreational campgrounds in the area, and she is at her wit’s end having had no results despite complaining to various agencies such as the B.C. Conservation Officer Service (BCCOS) and the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) for months.
“I have no idea why the powers that be are letting this continue,” Furness said. “Everyone passes the buck. This group at Borden Creek is obviously up to some bad stuff, there is a constant stream of undesirables coming and going. At night there are expensive vehicles such as BMWs dropping off and picking up items.
“We have campers from all over the world that come to bike the Trans Canada Trail, we have to tell them they cannot because of this and several other homeless camps. When did we lose the right to law enforcement?”
The area in question is 18 kilometres up Chilliwack Lake Road and is in Electoral Area E of the Fraser Valley Regional District. Area E director Orion Engar said he and the entire community is frustrated by the lack of provincial boots on the ground to stop the garbage and those polluting creeks and the environment generally.
“For over three years I have lobbied for more Conservation Officer presence,” Engar said. “The new government in Victoria has added a few, but to do the job properly and preserve Super Natural BC, many more are needed.”
Asked about the squatters on a conference call on Thursday, Deputy Chief of the BCCOS Chris Doyle couldn’t speak specifically to Borden Creek but he said he didn’t think the issue has to do with a lack of conservation officers.
Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness has also been lobbying the provincial agencies to do something about this particular camp, and others that are now popping up, but there has been no action.
Throness sent a letter dated July 16 to FLNRO Minister Doug Donaldson about the camp.
“I have been working with staff for months to respond to complaints by constituents, but without success,” Throness wrote. “It appears to me that staff lack the legal tools that would enable them to remove threats to the environment, public safety, and public health.”
He suggested that the no-camping zone from the Vedder Bridge to the bridge at Tamihi Creek under Section 58 of the Forest and Range Practices Act be extended to at least Borden Creek.
Furness has similarly urged Donaldson to do the same, but Engar isn’t sure that would help the matter.
“Suggestions of closing some troublesome areas in the Chilliwack River Valley to camping will only be effective if there is actual enforcement on the ground,” Engar said.
As for Furness, her latest message of complaint was sent to FLNRO regional manager of compliance and enforcement Paul Bastarache but she received no reply. The Progress received an out-of-office reply to an email to Bastarache asking about the issue.
Media spokesperson for both the Ministry of Environment and FLNRO did not get back with answers before this story was posted, but check back at www.theprogress.com for updates.