The BC Visitor Centre located just outside of Merritt at the junction of Hwy 5 and Hwy 97C, informally called ‘Exit 286’, closed in 2018. Since that time, there have been numerous complaints from tourists and Merrittonians alike as travellers continue to use the area as a bathroom and a place to illegally dump garbage. 

Mayor and council brought the issue up at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention, expressing their dismay at the “disgusting” condition of the grounds, which are highly visible to anyone travelling to or past Merritt. 

At long last, it seemed the province heard these concerns loud and clear.  

“This is actually the direct result of council’s lobbying at UBCM,” said City CAO Sean Smith.

“When you spoke to Minister (John) Horgan and were able to convey to him the concern that citizens are having, and the dumping and the garbage that has been happening up at 286 for some time.” 

“I think that the terminology that the minister caught onto was when we called it an open latrine,” Mayor Linda Brown added. 

As such, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) has offered to enter into an agreement with the City of Merritt which will see them cover clean-up costs incurred by the city at the site up until March 2021, costs that Merritt taxpayers had been unfairly on the hook for. 

The agreement allows for up to $30,000, but Smith said less than that will likely need to be paid out. 

“It’ll be less than $20,000 that’s paid, but directly back to the taxpayers,” Smith explained.

One more cleaning will also be provided for, which will be scheduled with a contractor for some time before the end of this month, at which point Mayor Brown hopes that the new owner will take over cleanup responsibilities.  

“There’s a good network that’s actually trying to make this problem go away,” Smith concluded. 

“I will still say there are some challenges jurisdictionally in terms of where funding is going to come from, but what I can confidently say is that we are going to clean the area up. We’ll pay for it and we’re going to find some way to make sure the province holds their promise… we will find a solution on that because that’s what’s right in this scenario. It’s not Merritt citizens that are creating that mess.”  

The motion to enter into the agreement with the MOTI was carried with no one opposed.