The neighbours of Edwards Park held a barbecue Saturday to celebrate the reclaiming of their community park.
Event organizer Margaret Reveley was overcome with emotion as she surveyed the scene.
“This does my heart good, to see all these kids and families back using this park again,” Reveley said. “Because that’s what this neighbourhood park is supposed to be; it’s supposed to be for children and families and this neighbourhood to use, and having this barbecue has brought them back again.”
Homeless campers with substance use issues took over the tiny park for a good part of summer.
The tent living, garbage, feces, needles, crack pipes and open drug use, all made Edwards Park completely “unusable” for families and children during the summer months, the neighbours told officials.
They called the City of Chilliwack, RCMP, their MLAs, Griffin Security and more — repeatedly.
At one point several of the park neighbours came together, and sat down with RCMP and City of Chilliwack reps to air their concerns, and see what could be done. The park was cleaned up, and the campers were asked to leave.
Reveley came up with the idea of host a community barbecue to draw the area residents and families back to the park, and many chipped in to make it a reality. Even though the campers appeared to have moved on, they still wanted to hold the community event, as a low-key celebration.
So on the rainy day of the BBQ, all the tents are gone. The grass is green after the fall showers. No one is using the bushes as a bathroom, and there is no garbage strewn around.
“I think the event is just wonderful,” said resident Linda Gibb.
The best part? Getting the park back, she replied.
“Absolutely,” agreed neighbour Nancy Jones. “We haven’t had any kids in the park all summer. Finally they’re able to come back and, hopefully they’ll stay now that they know that things are back to normal.”
Two months later, the campers appear to have moved on, and have not returned.
There only is the sound of children laughing, the smell of grilled hot dogs, and some cheery chalk art decorates a path through the park.
There are stacked containers holding about 100 homemade chocolate and vanilla cupcakes made by area resident Elizabeth Daley.
Supt. Bryon Massie, Chilliwack’s top cop, presented Reveley with a Challenge Coin as organizer of the event. Mayor Sharon Gaetz and Coun. Ken Popove attended, and were visiting and chatting with residents.
Part of the event funding came from the city’s Neighbourhood Grant Program – Celebration and Activity stream, as well as donations from local businesses and individuals.