While the city has crews cleaning up assorted debris along a swath of riverbank in Valleyview, a resident who came forward with his concerns said the patchwork approach will not solve the problem.
Mike Williams said the situation on what is known as K-Mart Beach along the South Thompson River and to the areas east and west has never been worse.
“I started seeing it along the river a couple of years ago, starting in Valleyview along the river,” Williams said, noting he is an avid boater who has long enjoyed the stretch of the river alongside Valleyview.
The beach, he said, is used by many families,
“It’s beautiful down there and it’s really sad what has happened,” he said, citing needles, trash, clothing, stolen items — all dumped throughout the area.
“I understand people have addictions and they’re homeless, but it’s still not acceptable for the city to let it get like this.
“They’re stealing stuff and they’re going down there and they’re dumping it.
“And, obviously, no one wants to address it.”
Williams wants to see a concerted effort, with the city, the federal fisheries department, the provincial environment ministry, the police and the businesses in Valleyview working together to clean up the area and devise a plan to prevent it from happening again.
“If I walked down to Riverside Park and I started dumping a whole bunch of crap down there, I’d be arrested so quickly,” Williams said.
“Yet why is this acceptable? It’s disgusting. I get it. I get it. These people have their addictions and they’re homeless.
“Still, it’s not right that it’s allowed to get this bad. The city has a responsibility because a good portion of that is zoned as parkland.”
Crime is obvious to the naked eye when walking the area, Williams said.
“Down there, I don’t know how many empty purses, suitcases with clothes spilling out — you know, they go through them and get what they want and dump the rest. I found people’s ID down there,” Williams said.
“I got down, almost to Kal Tire, I guess, and there was a guy with quite a camp there and he was actually, literally, chopping a bike with a hatchet.
“He said, ‘I wouldn’t go any further.” He was nice about it. He wasn’t threatening. It was almost like a warning that it’s not safe.”
Beyond the eyesore that is the area, Williams argues leaving the debris along the river shore constitutes a hazard as, once the river rises in the spring, the needles and discarded bike parts and emptied purses and wallets may be swept downstream.
Calling it an “ugly situation,” Kamloops Coun. Dale Bass said she contacted the city’s community and protective services director.
She is pleased with quick action by the city in response to concerns raised by residents, with bylaws officers and CP Police scoping out the scene this week and a contractor working on cleaning up the area.
Bass said it is a challenging situation, one that is not limited to Valleyview.
“The reality is, that as soon as it’s all cleared up and the RCMP, the police, the bylaw people go away, there’s nothing to stop people from going right back,” she said.
Bass noted a Supreme Court ruling that established the right to set up camp, a city bylaw limiting camping to overnight and the fact those who frequent the riverbanks are dealing with homelessness, mental illness and drug addiction.