A gate has been installed at Gill Road in Chilliwack as part of a plan to control squatters and illegal garbage dumping on the Fraser River gravel bar.
The gate was installed last week by City of Chilliwack staff, as part of a joint plan by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD), to prevent the ongoing environmental damage to the foreshore on Crown land.
Part of the agreement with the ministry required the city to install the gate as the first step to controlling access to the gravel bar.
Provincial officials, including a natural resource officer, were on-site in Chilliwack early on Dec. 17 inspecting the Gill bar homeless encampments, and preparing to clear the area.
They spoke to several individuals living there, according to the ministry spokesperson, and notified them it is “unlawful for anyone to stay on Crown land” for more than 14 days under the Land Act.
“The cleanup of the site is anticipated to occur in the new year,” said the ministry rep.
Planning for the future of Gill bar has been ongoing quietly for more than a year with stakeholders like the Four Wheel Drive Association of BC, the Fraser Valley Illegal Dumping Alliance, as well as city and FLNRORD reps.
Gill Bar is hugely popular with anglers, the four-by-four community, and others who enjoy recreating by the river, but in recent years, homeless squatters have also moved in to the sensitive riparian area, on the north side of Chilliwack.
The gate will stay open until ministry officials take over the site to initiate the cleanup. Then the gates will then be locked from dusk to dawn by a security contractor.
The long-term plan is to create a day-use area with campsites, boat launch and parking, all monitored and maintained by a park host, similar to the way the old Island 22 campground was run before erosion took most of the land away.
Matt Ion, communications director with the Four Wheel Drive Association of BC commented: “hopefully this helps dispel the rumours and calm some of the concerns about the area.”
With the planning for Gill underway, Ion added: “there’s a significant opportunity here for wheelers to continue to show we can be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.”
A meeting between Chilliwack Natural Resource District, Compliance & Enforcement Branch (NRO), and BC Housing is set to determine the next steps.
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