They’ve got their work cut out for them as melting snow has revealed garbage piles anew near the Fraser River in Chilliwack.
Organizers are getting ready for the 10th annual Fraser River cleanup, and are inviting volunteers and river stewards to join them at the end of Gill Road on Saturday March 18.
“Help us bring our 10-year cleanup total to more than 100 tonnes of garbage, and celebrate a decade of bringing our community together to keep our beloved river safe and clean for all to enjoy,” said Woodtone rep Kevin Raffle.
In a pre-event assessment conducted recently by organizers they found new piles of garbage, additional homeless camps, and dumped yard waste in the not-so-pristine riparian areas.
It’s worse than it has been in the past.
“The ATV trails and the clearing to the immediate right have various bags strewn about and trash piles dotting that area along the bush.”
That’s what drives people to roll up their sleeves and help these types of community efforts to protect beloved spaces.
“It’s sad and disheartening to look at this, and then see the large active eagle’s nest right above it,” said Raffle.
A little walk downriver onto the gravel bar finds burn piles, couches, chairs, and detritus littered along the landscape.
“One of the biggest piles I saw was only 10 feet from the water’s edge,” noted the cleanup organizer. “No doubt we will have some work to do.”
Volunteers are the key to their success, having hauled away 88 tonnes of illegally dumped garbage from the heart of the Fraser River over the past nine years.
It all started with a few volunteers and lots of love for salmon and rivers in 2007, when Fraser Riverkeeper reps hosted the first cleanup along the Fraser. It grew steadily, with the support of Woodtone and the late Andy Rotzetter of Rotz Disposal, and the labour of hundreds of volunteers.
Last year the event attracted 450 people to help with the cleanup.
“The Fraser is our backyard and this year’s event we want to celebrate the impact that the volunteers have had, and to say thank you for everyone’s support.”
They get broad-based support. First Class Waste provides the bins used for the cleanup, for example, and they are sponsored by City of Chilliwack, Patagonia, Big K Clothing, Timbro Contracting, & Inner Vision Yoga.
Restaurant 62 will be serving up BBQ lunch to volunteers, with donations from IGA, Starbucks and the Chilliwack Water Store. The Vancouver Aquarium’s AquaVan will attend, providing a fun and interactive learning experience for kids. Additional cleanup support provided by Kal Tire, Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, Fraser Valley Salmon Society, Great River Fishing Adventures, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Sitka Foundation, G&F Financial Group, and Vancity Credit Union.
“These days, with so many big issues facing our communities, it seems like we’re always being called on to dig our heels in and scream ‘no!’ at something. That’s why it feels so good to take part in an event like this, where we can all come together and say ‘yes’ to a clean river,” said Joe Daniels of Fraser Riverkeeper.
“Of course we’d prefer it if illegal dumping would stop altogether so that organizing a cleanup every year wouldn’t be necessary.
“But the more families participate in these events, bringing their kids out to learn the value of giving back to their community and of keeping the woods and waters they love clean, the more likely it becomes that we can transform these annual cleanups into what they truly are: a celebration of life and community along the Fraser.”
The way into the Gill Road location is full of potholes, so drivers are asked to go extremely slowly down toward the river.