Safety first on May long weekend, say Chilliwack RCMP

Lost hikers, ATV accidents and fishing accidents have a way of marring the otherwise festive May long weekend in the Fraser Valley

Lost hikers, ATV accidents and fishing accidents have a way of marring the otherwise festive May long weekend in B.C.

RCMP officials in the Fraser Valley are hoping this year will be different.

“Our major focus this year will be patrolling the forest service roads on our ATVs and patrolling the lakes in our boats,” said Cpl. Tammy Hollingsworth, RCMP spokesperson for the Upper Fraser Valley detachment.

All liquor, drug and firearms-related laws will be enforced with “zero tolerance” for violators, she said.

“Open liquor will be seized and persons found in possession of open liquor in a public place will be subject to fines and legal action,” she said.

All laws related to operating a vessel on B.C. waterways will also be enforced.

A ban on overnight camping and parking along Vedder Road between the Vedder Bridge and Tamihi Bridge will also be in effect. No camping is allowed in the area between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.

Police are also warning visitors that parking regulations in Cultus Lake must be obeyed or violators will find vehicles towed away.

More than 5,000 holidayers regularly flood the day-use areas at Cultus Lake during the May long weekend, and hundreds more pack the park’s campsites. The congestion is usually no different in other parks and campsites in the region — and a drowning or a lost hiker can quickly turn a novel outdoor experience for a city-dweller into a tragedy.

Police also issued a special safety precaution to fishermen and boaters to wear life jackets on water and on shore.

“Too many lives lost last year were due to people not wearing life jackets,” Hollingsworth said.

“The level of experience you have with boating or fishing doesn’t matter when the unexpected happens,” she said.

“A common problem last year was with fishermen’s waders filling up with water, pulling (them) down with the force of the current,” she said.

“We definitely don’t want to see that happen again this year.”

In 2010, a 63-year-old man from the United Kingdom, on a camping holiday here with his wife, drowned while fishing in the Chilliwack River after his hip waders filled with water. Last year a 57-year-old man from Surrey nearly lost his life when his hip waders also filled with water as he fished in the Fraser River.

Last summer, several ATV drivers were airlifted to hospitals down valley after accidents in the Chilliwack area.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen impaired drivers were nabbed in the Chilliwack area between the May long weekend and BC Day in July, 2010 and 278 liquor seizures made. There were 36 24-hour roadside suspensions that year, and 102 boat safety warnings, four of which led to charges.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

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