A notorious homeless camp in the Chilliwack River Valley has finally been removed after more than six months of complaints from nearby residents, campground hosts, and campers.
There have been incidents of thefts, threats and even dog bites.
Those affected by the squatters were exasperated that provincial agencies seemed unwilling or unable to crack down on the group who were causing public health, safety and environmental problems at Borden Creek.
But finally, in Aug. 24, in a co-ordinated plan was created between the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) and Rural Development, BC Housing, and the RCMP, according to a FLNRO spokesperson.
”Once the well-being of the occupants was assessed, and a suitable location on private land was identified for the occupants to live, Natural Resource Officers issued notices for all personal items to be removed from Borden Creek,” the spokesperson said.
So where are they now? The ministry wouldn’t say, but a source suggested the property they moved to was near the south end of Cultus Lake.
After the squatters were relocated, the cleanup of any leftover debris took place on Aug. 24 by Chilliwack Natural Resource District staff at a cost of $1,655.50, which included the cost of a garbage bin, garbage pick-up, the cost to hire a security officer, and vehicle recovery and towing.
Patricia Furness, who is in charge of the recreational campgrounds in the area, and who was one of the most vocal critics of the inaction to remove the homeless camp, said it was baffling that FLNRO was involved because of a response she received from the minister just eight days before the cleanup.
In a June 28 email to FLNRO Minister Doug Donaldson, Furness complained, yet again, that for the previous six months the attempts to get the camp, which is on the Trans Canada Trail, removed fell on deaf ears.
“The homeless camp is just a short walk through the back one of the campgrounds and this is causing problems for our campers,” Furness wrote. “Our campers are having items stolen from their camps during the night, children playing on the trails are finding used needles, pill packages and human excrement.”
Nearly two months later, on Aug. 16, Donaldson sent a baffling response suggesting the issue was not a matter for Natural Resource Officers but was a housing issue.
“While I appreciate that you took the time to share your thoughts with this ministry, this topic falls under the purview of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing,” the minister wrote. “I have shared a copy of your enquiry with Honourable Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, for her review and consideration.”
Regardless of how it went down, Furness is relieved the site has finally been cleaned up.
Paul Jeffery who also complained about the camp, and others in the valley, was also glad to see a resolution at long last.
“I am happy to say that they are now gone,” Jeffery said. “The sequence of events was, first the six dogs were seized. Then the occupants were removed…. On last Friday (Aug. 24) all three vehicles were removed and a bin was brought in to remove all the garbage.”
However, Jeffery said there are still at least two other illegal encampments in the Chilliwack River Valley.