Summer in the Chilliwack back country means different things to different people.
For some, it’s the solitude of a long hike to one of the area’s striking mountain peaks. For others, it might mean fishing along the streams and rivers, or on one of the lakes. Still others might enjoy the thrill of mountain biking, or ATV riding with friends.
But unfortunately for many residents, summer simply means more garbage.
They’ll find it dumped along the roadsides, or left behind in makeshift campsites.
They’ll clean it up and haul it away (spending their own time and money) only to find more garbage there the next week.
The problem isn’t new; it happens with such frequency that volunteers are mustered after every long weekend, and again at the end of the season.
The annual Vedder Mountain Clean Up, organized by a consortium of trail users, collects nearly seven tonnes of garbage and recycling every year.
Similar groups organize river cleanups along the Vedder and Fraser Rivers.
In the Chilliwack River Valley, volunteers regularly head out to clean up the mess that others leave behind.
It seems counter-intuitive that people who come to enjoy the wilderness would leave it looking like an urban back alley.
And although the offenders are a minority, their impact is substantial.
A solution seems elusive. Meetings have been held, signs installed, legislation proposed and patrols tightened.
Yet the problem remains.
Some call for tougher penalties and higher fines. But without the resources to level those fines, it’s more bark than bite.
Providing those resources should not fall entirely on Chilliwack or the Fraser Valley Regional District. It needs a broader response, reflective of the popular draw from throughout the Lower Mainland and, indeed, the province.
We need answers and we need action. Counting on community-minded volunteers is proving as ineffective in stopping the problem as it is unfair.
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