Are the people living in RVs and buses next to Borden Creek in the Chilliwack River Valley (CRV) campers or squatters?
Questions are swirling in the CRV about the small and growing encampment, but some valley residents and visitors are frustrated and simply want it gone.
“They have been there for over eight weeks now, and the [two] RVs have grown to four RVs,” long-time CRV resident Paul Jeffery said. “I witnessed a adult male pouring from a five-gallon pail of what looked like human waste into Borden Creek. They have been reported to the RAPP line but with no enforcement.”
Another resident said they’ve been there for longer than eight weeks, possibly since February.
“We have complained many times and yet there they still sit,” Patricia Furness said in a letter to The Progress back in April. “The garbage is piling up, and it gets more disgusting as each day goes by.”
At that time, the encampment consisted of one large, old bus and a large RV, surrounded by garbage and other items. By June 19, both those vehicles were still present along with a tent, bicycles and a white van.
Jeffery said the encampment is connected to the homeless camp that was dismantled closer to the city in the CRV last December.
“I understand that some people fall on hard times,” he said. “However, that does not allow them the right to pollute our valley.”
And Furness said used syringes have been found at the fire pits at Thurston Meadows a short walk away, and the hosts at that campsite were once threatened at knifepoint.
“The RCMP did attend this incident but all they did was remove the knife from the individual threatening the camp hosts,” she said.
Both Fraser Valley Regional District director for the CRV (Area E) Orion Engar and Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness are aware of the situation.
“Our Wilderness Watch volunteers have been reporting it to me and the [Report All Poachers and Polluters] line for months now,” Engar said back in April. “Natural Resource Officers (NROs) tell me they are on top of this issue but it appears to be growing.”
In an email response to Furness, Throness said he heard the people might be camping legally by exploiting the loophole that anyone can camp on Crown land in B.C. for two weeks at a time.
“They have realized that every two weeks, they can simply move their vehicle and remain for another two weeks legally,” he wrote in an email. “They are exploiting a loophole in the law.”
But the vehicles in question have been in the precise spot they are in for many months now.
Throness said this week the issue is a difficult one because the RVs in question are movable, and it’s challenging to verify if they are violating the two-week rule or not.
He did say eviction is in the works, and he was told on June 14 that provincial Conservation Officers and NROs are visiting the site every second day to ensure there is progress with a commitment the people made to leave the area.
Throness said he was told that if they miss the deadline of the end of this month to be gone, property will be seized and the area cleaned up.
“‘As long as they show steady progress the enforcement agencies are letting them move at their own place,’” Throness said he was told.
“I’m sure it will be taken care of soon.”
As for area residents, it’s been too long already.
“The longer they are allowed to squat at Borden Creek, the larger the bill will be for cleaning up the mess they are creating,” Jeffery said.
And as long ago as last month, Furness also said it had already gone on too long.
“To date, all complaints by concerned users of this valley have fallen on deaf ears. Each agency is passing the buck. As a taxpayer I am saying to these agencies do the job you were hired to do and protect the environment.”