Cleanup efforts at a homeless encampment near the banks of Sweltzer Creek in Chilliwack were completed just in time to keep the junk out of the rising river waters, said Chris Gadsden on Sunday.
“We started working on it a little over a week ago as soon we saw that the camp was there,” said Gadsden.
Although Gadsden said he was aware of only two or three people living at the camp, there could have been many more in and out daily.
“When a camp like this is in a riparian zone along the edges of a river, and within the high-water area, all that debris and stuff can be washed downstream, to the Vedder to the Fraser and out to the ocean,” said Gadsden, co-founder of the Chilliwack-Vedder Cleanup Society.
Gadsden said volunteers helped the campers pack up belongings they wanted to keep, and made sure they had somewhere to go. Then they cleaned up clothes, needles, suitcases, batteries, bicycle parts and “anything you could think of,” said Gadsden.
Gadsden said residents who became aware of the encampment on Crown land notified him and Fraser Valley Regional District officials, who in turn contacted the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
Gadsden said the encampments have been a recurring issue, with lack of sanitation and illegal dumping being primary concerns, and that steps are being taken to monitor several other small encampments in the area.
“There was some outrage among the local residents about theft related to these camps, but the thing that concerned us most was all the stuff that could be washed down the river if the water got high,” said Gadsden.