Mayor motivated to remove historic car wall

The District of Vanderhoof wants to remove the car wall in Riverside Park located along the west banks of the Nechako river

A carwall on the west banks of the Nechako River in Vanderhoof was put there to stop erosion of the river bank.

The District of Vanderhoof is talking about removing the car wall on the west banks of Riverside Park despite the many challenges they will face. Vanderhoof’s mayor Gerry Thiessen feels it is in the towns best interest.

“At this stage environmentally they’re not bad but aesthetically its terrible,” said mayor Thiessen. “We want people to use the river and when people see it they may not want to.”

Over 60 years ago a collection of pre-1950 automobiles were placed along the Nechako River to stop erosion of the river’s bank. Only a few can be seen  but more than two dozen still line the sides of the river. Scattered over a stretch of nearly half a kilometre, rusted engines and parts have surfaced over time giving onlookers a glimpse of the old car cemetery.

At the time it may have seemed smart to use old cars to stop the erosion but, environmentally the cars should have never been put there considering each engine and gas tank were most likely not cleaned thoroughly prior to entry, said mayor Thiessen. “[Professionals] have since determined that by now the contaminants have already leached out, but it is still quite unsightly,” he said.

What concerns the District now is that the cars are buried in decades of sand and have become embedded as part of the rivers flow. The challenge will not only be getting the cars out, but exchanging them. If the cars were to be replaced with flat rocks, it would speed up the river and may cause erosion in another place.

The Nechako Environment & Water Stewardship Society (NEWSS) is passionate about stream restoration and has agreed to work with the District of Vanderhoof on removing the cars.

“It’s easy to support because we shouldn’t have metal in streams,” said Wayne Salewski, director of NEWSS.

“The hope is to approve appearance of the river while stabilizing erosion but first we need to acquire the proper permits from the MFLNR.”

Members of the District of Vanderhoof and NEWSS have also consulted with Cory Williamson, manager of the Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre, to talk about how removing the car wall would affect fish spawning.

“Anything you do in the water can potentially be harmful to the fish,” said Mr. Williamson.

Directly adjacent to the car wall location in the Nechako River are experimental spawning beds.

The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC would want to know how those spawning areas would be protected, said Mr. Williamson.

“When they do build something in the future, the hope is it will be durable. If they do the job properly it will last a significant length of time. It’s a good thing just everything has to be considered and done right,” said Mr. Williamson.

The NEWSS hopes to have permitting done this fall so a  plan can be worked on for next year.


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