It was the best Fraser River cleanup they ever had.
More than 450 people showed up from all over the Lower Mainland to tackle garbage dumped along a 10-km stretch of the mighty Fraser River.
An estimated 20 tonnes was removed from sensitive wilderness areas and community green spaces in Chilliwack, making the 9th annual event the most successful garbage cleanup to date, according to organizers.
“We’re absolutely floored by the impact of this year’s cleanup and the tremendous support we’ve received from the community,” said organizer Joe Daniels of Fraser Riverkeeper.
This year’s tonnage nearly doubled last year’s effort which focused on Gill Bar. So far the Fraser cleanup has taken out a staggering 80 tonnes of trash over the past nine years, and this year’s event hit a number of sections along the waterway.
“It’s so inspiring to see so many people willing to devote their Saturday to cleaning up the wild places they love, and especially inspiring to see so many kids taking part in the effort as well,” said Daniels.
Several families also used the event as an opportunity to teach kids the value of giving back to their community and protecting their local waterways.
The cleanups began in 2007 with just a small group of about a dozen volunteers.
Since then they’ve grown to among the largest cleanup efforts in the Fraser Valley.
Illegal dumping has become epidemic across the valley, threatening recreational areas and wildlife habitat. But organizers hope the educational aspects of the cleanup, along with reporting incentives, improved signage and general awareness will help curb the trend of riverside dumping.
“It’s general knowledge within our community that this type of activity is illegal, and extremely detrimental to our local environment, fish, and wildlife,” said organizer Kevin Raffle of Woodtone. “We all have a part to play and need to leave these areas in their natural state, looking like they have never been visited in the first place.”
Mattresses, vehicle parts, spent ammunition, construction waste, lots of household garbage, nails from pallet fires, and some grow-op garbage were hauled out of the riparian zones. Everything was sorted and transported to the Bailey Landfill and CCon Metals for safe disposal or recycling with the help of crews from First Class Disposal, Alpine Waste, and BioCentral.
Conservation Officers also stopped by the cleanup and took possession of some evidence of addresses and vehicle tags, which may lead to prosecution of the dumpers.
For anyone who missed Saturday’s event, there’s another right around the corner. The Chilliwack-Vedder River Cleanup Society has a cleanup event in partnership with the City of Chilliwack and Fraser Valley Regional District on Saturday, April 16. Registration is between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 am at the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve. Cleanup will take place from 9:30 a.m. to noon. More info at www.cleanrivers.ca.