When you drive through Hedley, or insert the name of a variety of other small communities in rural BC, you might think the community is full of hoarders.
Numerous properties scattered throughout the community are filled with junk. The lots contain rusty old vehicles (not plated), boats, discarded building materials, broken glass, old appliances and much more.
At first glance one might feel sad for the owners that they’ve let their large properties get out of control.
But as the Review learned earlier this month at least in Hedley there’s no reason to feel sad but there’s loads of reasons to feel angry.
“They’re dumping on Crown land,” Lydia Sawicki of Hedley said while holding a map outlining Crown owned land in the small community. “This land could be used for different things. We could actually get enjoyment out of it but some people have decided to use it as their own personal storage spaces.”
The small community has a large amount of Crown Land lots compared to other communities its size. A rockslide decades ago changed the landscape of the community in more ways than one.
“Because of the dangers of the slide they didn’t want people living near there so they deemed some lots Crown Land so no one could build on them,” she said. “It could be beautiful but instead it’s this,” she said pointing to several junk filled lots.
Sawicki said herself and a group of about 10 other volunteers have offered to help clean up the mess. In the past the group has helped cleanup other areas including 20 Mile Creek.
Although they’ve traditionally not been taken up on their offers a resident did recently accept help.
“It’s encouraging. We pulled out a lot of glass. That’s a major concern as these properties end up with long grass growing and there’s a big danger for fire there,” she said.
Graham Gore, manager of the Hedley Volunteer fire department said the lots are a big concern for the department.
“We are getting dryer and dryer summers. These are real fire hazards and the abandoned vehicles have combustible material inside of them. It really is a big concern for us and the safety of the whole community,” he said.
The Hedley Improvement District oversees the fire department and has tried to work with the government to have these lots cleaned up.
“The HID has no jurisdiction over it but we see it as an issue of safety,” Lynn Wells, president of the HID said.
Over the years the HID has tried to work with several federal and provincial ministries to help cleanup abandoned vehicles on Crown lots and even on streets.
At this point there has not been much response.
“It is difficult. It’s not a high priority for them. They’re usually understaffed and overworked,” she said. “If there is some way we can get citizen participation to help cleanup the problem it is always greatly appreciated.”
Wells said she personally filed a complaint four years ago with regards to a neighbour dumping vehicles. This spring an environment officer finally attended and ordered the vehicles removed.
The HID has been in regular communication with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure over the past six months with regards to abandoned vehicles on the streets.
“When people complain, we do try to do something about it but we cannot just call a tow truck and have these vehicles towed away. The RCMP has to be called. The vehicles checked out to make sure they aren’t insured and they are actually abandoned,” she said.
To report polluters call 1-877-952-7277.