It appears that our City of Chilliwack Council runs more like a Dictatorship than a Democracy; and here’s why.
An impressive 1,034 signatures gathered (over 50 per cent by trail walkers interviewed) in one month was not enough to get Mayor Gaetz to honour a decision made 17 years ago by City Council. That decision was to leave the access road to the rail bridge left open to vehicle traffic.
I had requested to speak during a council meeting. I was not allowed, but was given a meeting with Mayor Gaetz. I met with her Friday morning, May 20. Joe Koczkur and Glen MacPherson were present.
From the start of the meeting Mayor Gaetz said I had wasted my time with a petition as she was not going to change her mind. The petition was asking for the new gate to be left open during the daytime so the gravel bar at the end of the road would be accessible to all persons, including those with mobility issues. Mayor Gaetz said the present council voted unanimously for the closure. Even though numerous solutions to the problems were presented, they were not about to change their minds.
More than once during this meeting Mayor Gaetz said there were safety concerns for female walkers on the trail adjacent to the road. Not once were the safety of swimmers mentioned by her. (I would like to ask, what about the safety of not just females, but all citizens of Chilliwack when it comes to our downtown area? Too many assaults; too much drug use; too much prostitution. Perhaps funds would be better allocated to this issue over the trail issue.) I have friends who would not venture into our downtown area after dark. I brought up the reasons for the canal area not being acceptible alternatives for swimmers. She is of the belief that fisherman like that area though.
The fact remains that one of the best and safest spots to go swimming in the river is now not accessible to those with mobility issues. I am to meet with Joe Koczkur to discuss where they will install ramps or steps to negotiate the steep river banks in other locations.
Mayor Gaetz did not want to accept our petition and wanted me to turn it over to a clerk in another department. I told her No. I was only going to give it to her and that she could do that after. She finally accepted it but did not look at it.
I left the meeting feeling thoroughly defeated and with the firm belief that the Chilliwack Rotary Clubs finally got their wish that was the last great section of the river’s edge for their trail.
Mayor Gaetz phoned me at home five hours later. She had finally read the petition given to her. She commented that it was a large number of persons who signed.
I suggested one more time that they leave the gate open during the daytime for vehicle traffic and one more time she said, no it would not be happening.
Perhaps the next council will open it; we can only hope. Anyway you look at it, this decision by our current council is discrimination.