For Immediate Release, December 5, 2023

ATVBC & 4WDABC call for better consultation on the decision to close Gill Bar recreation area

Chilliwack, BC – Members of off-road motorized sports groups, including the Quad Riders Association of BC (ATVBC) and the Four Wheel Drive Association of BC (4WDABC), have come together regularly since August 2022 to address the DFO decision to shut down vehicle access to Gill Bar in Chilliwack.

The 4WDABC worked with Watershed Watch Salmon Society in the fall of 2021 through 2022 to the closure of Gill Bar on an education campaign to raise awareness to the sensitive salmon spawning areas. Further events were planned, but the closure ended this.

Requests were sent on behalf of our organizations in response to the decision and resulting article published in the Chilliwack Progress on July 28, 2022 titled “DFO shuts down vehicle access to Gill Bar in Chilliwack” that stated the coordination was unsuccessful with our groups, which in part lead to the decision to implement the temporary closure.

As outlined in our August 19, 2022, letter to DFO, we strongly disagreed with the narrative given by DFO regarding the consultation with our respective associations and requested that we be included in any future conversations so that our members could provide feedback and allow for true inclusive consultation to take place.

It was stated in the original news article that this closure was a “temporary measure until the long-term management planning process, currently underway, concludes.”

Unfortunately, we never received a response to our first letter, and we issued another letter on September 12, 2023, asking for an update on the “temporary closure” and re-iterated our request to have a “seat at the table” for further discussions. After sending our 2nd request for consultation, we received a response with the following update:

Although Conservation and Protection (C&P) initially participated in the meetings with the Province and the City of Chilliwack, it is in fact the City of Chilliwack in conjunction with the Province that ultimately controls access to this area.

We are disappointed to see that we have continued to be left out of the conversations regarding the future management of this area as it was identified during the initial temporary closure that future consultation over the next two years with all stakeholders would take place. This is simply not the case. While the update provided shows some movement forward with engagement with local first nations it doesn’t clearly indicate how they will address the temporary closure or if it will become permanent.

Gill Bar is a tremendous community resource that was loved and cherished by many thousands of people and has long been a vital hub for various community and recreational activities, serving as a haven for rock hounds, individuals exercising their dogs, fishermen seeking tranquillity, and families enjoying fireside moments. The diverse range of activities at Gill Bar has created a unique and inclusive community environment, fostering connections among residents and visitors alike.

There are few places as large and as open as Gill that allow so many to enjoy the river and nature while also being somewhat private. There are few places like this that allow children to learn how to ride motorcycles or quads where they feel free while also being monitored by their parents and guardians. The loss of this place is a tremendous loss to the community as well as a great loss for motorized recreationists.

We believe by properly engaging key stakeholders to come together to bring solutions. Mapping invasive species areas, recognizing the indigenous values and history of the area, setting up access gates to route traffic away from sensitive areas and creating a refuse management plan will enable us to address the concerns of DFO, the local community and indigenous groups.

In addition to our two associations, the BC Federation of Drift Fishers has provided the following statement:

“The B.C Federation of Drift Fishers supports establishing a committee of concerned stakeholders and user groups to review reopening the Gill Rd area on the Fraser River. This was formerly a multi-use recreation area enjoyed by fishers. hikers, picnickers & motorized vehicles. Any reopening must prioritize the protection of sensitive salmon habitat. This location in the “Heart of the Fraser” is a priceless gem with balancing recreation & protection of habitat certainly a worthwhile goal.”

We all can benefit from a better understanding of the area’s environmental, indigenous and cultural values. Simply shutting down the area doesn’t provide the opportunity for us to educate and grow together as a community.

We need outdoor spaces to remain accessible for the many generations that will come after us. We believe by working together, we can create a way to leave it better than we found it and create a net positive experience for everyone.

We encourage the City of Chilliwack and the Province to consider the impacts on all outdoor recreation groups and allow our associations a seat at the table to bring their voices forward in an inclusive manner.

About Quad Riders Association of BC (ATVBC)

Established in 2001, ATVBC is a membership-driven organization representing over 5000 riders, belonging to over 40 local clubs in BC. ATVBC advocates for shared trails through responsible use, collaboration with other user groups, and volunteer contributions around the province of BC. ATVBC works to represent and bring the voice of its members to all three levels of government to fulfill its mandate.

About Four Wheel Drive Association of BC (4WDABC)

Stewards of British Columbia’s Back Yard since 1977. The Four-Wheel Drive Association of British Columbia is a registered non-profit society that advocates for Public Access to Public Land. To this goal, we’re involved in active stewardship of our backcountry by maintaining 26 Rec Sites in BC so that avid off-roaders can use them free of charge.

For more information, contact:

Chris D’Silva, President
ATVBC Quad Riders Association of BC

Kim Reeves, President
Four Wheel Drive Association of BC