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Volunteers hauled thousands of kilograms of garbage up steep incline from squatter camp

Second cleanup under Vedder Bridge conducted by Chilliwack river stewards after fire last weekend
Volunteers remove garbage from a Sweltzer Creek homeless camp under the Vedder River bridge on Jan. 29, 2023 (Streams Foundations Canada)

A group of Chilliwack volunteers braved chilly temperatures to haul away several truckloads of garbage Sunday.

Tarps, bike parts, furniture and clothes were dragged up a steep incline from a homeless camp under the Vedder River bridge on Swetzer Creek.

It was the second volunteer cleanup at the site conducted by stewards and nature lovers. The camp saw a fire break out last weekend in one of the tarped structures, which postponed the cleanup until Jan. 29.

RELATED: Fire broke out in homeless camp under bridge

Volunteer Ross Aikenhead estimated they’ve trucked away more than 14,000 pounds of garbage from this camp alone, including the Sunday total.

“Weight for today was 2,480 kilograms for a total of 5,740 kilograms removed from this camp so far. That’s over 14,700 pounds,” Aikenhead posted.

Volunteers parked on Sweltzer Creek Road were provided with disposable gloves and garbage bags for the cleanup.

Zeeshan Khan of Streams Foundation Canada posted his appreciation for volunteer efforts from the community to get the garbage away from the riparian zones at the water’s edge.

“Imagine all of this going into the waterways if we as a community hadn’t done this.”

Aikenhead and others have been reporting the issue to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRO), the ministry responsible for stewardship on Crown land, and to other agencies, to no avail.

Efforts have been underway behind the scenes to try to encourage all levels of government to work on this ongoing environmental and social challenge.

Homeless encampments and illegal squatting in the Chilliwack River Valley has been a problem for many years. Numerous sites including pristine riverside spots have been contaminated by abandoned recreational vehicles, tents, personal belongings and garbage left for weeks and months.

Back in 2017, an elaborate effort was undertaken to remove 7.8 tonnes of garbage and hundreds of syringes from an area on the Chilliwack River close to the Vedder Bridge.

—with files from Paul Henderson

RELATED: Chilliwack River Valley targeted by squatters

RELATED: Contractors, provincial reps cleaned up site in 2019

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Volunteers haul trash up a steep incline from a Sweltzer Creek homeless camp under the Vedder River bridge on Jan. 29, 2023. (Streams Foundations Canada)

Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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