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DFO shuts down vehicle access to Gill Bar in Chilliwack

Enforcement and media attention haven’t helped stop habitat destruction by 4-by-4s
Screenshot from video posted in early 2021 showing repeated crossings through side channels of the Fraser River at Gill Bar in Chilliwack. (Facebook)

River advocates will be happy. River partiers will not.

Gill Bar on the Fraser River in Chilliwack is now closed to vehicle traffic as of Thursday, July 28.

The popular recreation site for people with all-terrain vehicles and other 4-by-4s has been controversial for years as many leave behind garbage, fire debris, and cause salmon habitat destruction.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced the closure Thursday after seeing a dramatic increase in activity in the area since the start of the pandemic, including off-road trucks driving through the gravel side channels.

“Stepped up enforcement and various measures, including public education, outreach through the media, co-ordination with off-roading organizations and investigations into potential illegal activities, have not been successful in addressing this harmful activity, and other negative impacts on the area’s habitat caused by recreational users,” according to a DFO statement.

READ MORE: New signs for protecting Fraser River habitat near Chilliwack vandalized

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As a result of the damage caused by recreational users, the road access gate will be reinforced and locked to restrict motor vehicle access into portions of provincial crown land leading to the gravel bar and side channels.

Gill Road bar is popular for recreation of all kinds, including dirt biking and four-wheeling. (Matt Ion photo)
Gill Road bar is popular for recreation of all kinds, including dirt biking and four-wheeling. (Matt Ion photo)

“This is a temporary measure which will remain in place until the long-term management planning process currently underway concludes.”

Public access to the bar via foot traffic or small boat will remain unaffected.

“The Bar and side channels also have important ecological and fish habitat value, are culturally significant to area First Nations, and are of ongoing concern for stewardship groups in the Fraser Valley.’

Gill Bar gravel bar provides important habitat for numerous fish species, including all five Pacific salmon species.

Side channels adjacent to the bar provide important spawning habitat for salmon as well as white sturgeon, which have been assessed as Threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada and are currently under consideration for listing under the Species at Risk Act. The side channels also support rearing juvenile salmon, including Chinook stocks emigrating from upstream areas of the Fraser River such as the Bridge, Nechako, Stuart and South Thompson Rivers. The side channels are also important habitat for eulachon, a culturally important species to B.C. First Nations.

This action is being taken on the advice from DFO’s Conservation and Protection Branch and the Federal Fisheries Habitat Protection Program, in coordination with the City of Chilliwack, the BC Ministry of Forests and the BC Ministry of Lands, Water & Resource Stewardship. Input into the decision was also given by area First Nations, the RCMP, community stewardship groups, off-road recreational associations, and other stakeholders.

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