One of Canada's premier whitewater kayakers was left in the lurch last week after vandals cut down a dozen wire-strung gates at the Tamihi Rapids on the Chilliwack River.
Jazmyne Denhollander had been planning on getting in another practice session in advance of the upcoming Pan-American Canoe Slalom Championships in Mexico. Instead, she spent last Thursday pulling fallen gates from the river where she learned her sport.
The gates are strung and maintained by the Chilliwack Centre of Excellence (CCE), a not-for-profit kayak club. Sometimes between Feb. 10 and 14, when Denhollander visited the river, someone cut the wires that held 12 parallel gates just above the surface of the water.
Shonnet Allen, one of the driving forces behind the CCE, says the vandalism is dispiriting.
"I can't believe people would do this," Allen said.
Club members had been on the river the previous weekend to repair damage to gates; some had been cut, while others had been downed by general wear and tear. It took a crew of eight people four hours to repair a half-dozen gates. Now, less than two weeks later, the CCE is facing an even bigger job.
"We've always had some of these issues, but never like 12 all at once," Allen said. "To willfully damage [the gates] like that and leave them dangling in the water, we we're not up there who knows who could get tangled in them."
The gates were cut on one side but left attached to the opposite river banks. That means the CCE can recover the gates.
Allen said the club believed previous vandalism may have been caused by teenage partiers. But February is a little too early for outdoor partying. Fishermen, she said, occasionally get their lines tangled in the gates-despite them hanging above the water line-but are generally respectful.
"We all want to take care of the river-they don't want their fish getting tangled up in this stuff," she said.
Allen equated the vandalism-and discovering it, like Denhollander, when one was hoping to partake in a sport-to going to a hockey rink only to find it had been damaged and was unplayable.
The CCE hosts the first of its annual icebreaker races this coming weekend on the Hope Slough. With that event upcoming, Allen said the club will refrain from rehanging the Tamihi gates right away.
"Is it worth going and repairing them to have them cut down again?" Allen asked.
But the Tamihi is a world-class kayaking venue and Allen said a work party will eventually be assembled to rehang the gates in advance of the coming paddling season.
"It's a national training site," she said. "We've had many a champion trained on that course."
The club has notified the RCMP and Allen urges anyone with information about the vandalism to call the police.
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