Taking aim at Bench Road trash dumping in the Chilliwack River Valley

Target shooters who leave trash in the bush have no idea that residents are just down the mountainside from where they're firing their guns

Volunteer Chris Gadsden

Messes left behind by rural target shooters are in the sights of the Chilliwack-Vedder River Cleanup Society this fall.

Sections of the beautiful Chilliwack River Valley are littered with spent shotgun shells, broken glass and carelessly dumped garbage as far as the eye can see.

“We are requesting more people to come out to our cleanup for B.C. Rivers’ Day, so we can get a few of these areas cleaned up,” said Chris Gadsden, longtime volunteer with the cleanup society.

He’s leading a tour, with a Progress reporter, and the local FVRD rep, to get a look at the disgusting state of the Bench Road area in the CRV.

“We hope to see extra people showing up to our cleanup this year, because we’ve never been up this way in any organized fashion,” he said.

Each little pullout along the forest services road has a nest of spent shells, nails from burned pallets and assorted crap left behind when the recreational shooting ends.

There are smashed orange “clay pigeons” everywhere, the sharp clay shards mixing with broken glass.

“They’ve taken out truckloads of garbage out of the area over the years. And they’ll be taking truckloads out the bush this time as well.”

The 15th annual B.C. Rivers Day cleanup event is on Sept. 27, with registration starting at 8:30 a.m. from the Chilliwack Fish and Game Club on Chilliwack Lake Road.

Orion Engar, FVRD rep for Area E, said he believes that target practice “ideally” should be conducted only in outdoor firing ranges, he said. Not in the bush.

“There’s the Chilliwack Fish and Game Club range and I understand there is new firing range coming also that would take some the pressure off.”

The FVRD will be looking at restrictions on recreational shooting this month, such as a no-firearm discharge within 400 metres (a quarter mile) of certain forest service roads. It would affect local forest services roads near Chilliwack Lake and Slesse Creek. Provincial approval would be needed.

Many of those shooting targets, and leaving trash everywhere, “have no idea” that local residents are located just down the mountainside from where they’re firing guns, the FVRD rep said.

“Of course it’s nice to do it in the wild and have a blast in the great outdoors, but come on, you don’t need to leave this kind of mess,” said Engar.

“If they were really smart, these shooters would be really cleaning things up and leaving the smallest footprint possible, in order to be seen as responsible users who take care of these spots.

“Unfortunately it’s clear from the garbage we see that this area is not being used by responsible folks.”

However, if area residents continue to voice complaints about garbage and public safety, closing access to some of these areas to shooting might not be far off.

“There’s been a groundswell of concern from the entire community out here, and they are appalled to see the garbage left behind. That’s what I heard loud and clear during the election,” said Engar. “‘What are you going to do about the garbage?’ Yeah, well what are we going to do about it?”

A number of groups have started working collaboratively to find solutions, like the Fraser Valley Illegal Dumping Alliance, and more. There is more awareness, more signage and more people being ticketed for dumping garbage illegally in the back country.

“They’ve been doing a wonderful job,” said Engar. “This is not a problem exclusive to the Chilliwack River Valley. A lot of other areas have these garbage dumping issues.”

But it also seems generational somehow.

“It appears there’s a generation lost that doesn’t get it or doesn’t have the understanding that we should take care to preserve these areas for future generations and not make them dump piles.”

The hope of volunteers like Gadsden and Engar is to see more individuals showing up to cleanups. The other hope is that B.C. Conservation Officers and local RCMP will start conducting more regular enforcement.

The good news is that the lower part of the CRV, known as Section 58, from the Vedder bridge to Tamihi, is “a lot better” in terms of trash dumping, Gadsden pointed out, since they prohibited overnight camping in that section.

“We’re definitely making inroads. We have to be careful when we close off certain areas, because it just pushes them and the garbage problem somewhere else,” he said. “One reason why we started the river cleanups in 2002 was to keep these areas open.”

The Sept. 27 river cleanup is from 9:30 a.m. to noon, followed by a volunteer appreciation BBQ, entertainment and draw prizes. See more at www.cleanrivers.ca.

–with files from Mission Record reporter Kevin Mills

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