Whether you’re keen to improve threatened salmon stocks or are simply passionate about protecting your local environment, you have many reasons to support efforts to restore local waterways – and various ways to do it, right in your own backyard!
Restoration of the creek beds and riparian areas is vital to improving local salmon returns, explains Rick Hatch, Saanich Parks assistant supervisor of natural areas.
“It’s all about fish habitat,” Rick says, pointing to current working areas around Copley Park East, for example, where urban development has stripped away the natural vegetation. “It’s a natural area, but it looks manmade because there’s so little original material left.”
Bank stabilization and re-introduction of vegetation, spawning gravel, rocks, stumps and other naturally occurring elements encourage spawning salmon to return, which in turn supports wild fish stocks.
While numbers fluctuate for various reasons, including hot, dry summers and predation on returning salmon, the 2016 fish count recorded 1,100 fish returning to Colquitz Creek!
Creek restoration continues
Work has largely focused on the three main streams running through Saanich: Douglas Creek, in Mt. Douglas Park, Colquitz Creek, from Cuthbert Holmes Park to Elk/Beaver Lakes, and Swan Creek, in the Interurban/Viaduct area.
A stretch of about 900 metres of Douglas Creek was restored between 2012 and 2016, and they’re currently restoring about 100m each year of Colquitz Creek.
Biologist Dave Clough has been instrumental in guiding Saanich Parks’ restoration work, supported by Saanich Public Works staff and volunteers, including community groups such as the Friends of Mt. Douglas Park, the Friends of Swan Creek and the Peninsula Streams Society.
Saanich’s Pulling Together volunteers are also vital to restoration efforts, removing invasive species and readying the parks for new native plants that support the health of the creeks, Rick says, noting it’s also a great opportunity for school groups, Scout and Guide groups and others to get involved in their community.
In addition to volunteering, residents and park users can also support the fish habitat by respecting restoration efforts. “If you see fencing and signage saying that we’re trying to restore that area, respect that and stay on the trail,” Rick says, noting that it’s important to keep dogs away from the sensitive areas too.
To provide park users with a good look at the creek without damaging the ecosystem, Saanich has built three viewing platforms – one at the fish fence in Cuthbert Holmes Park behind Montana’s restaurant, one at Mann Avenue, and another at Eastridge Crescent. “You can watch the fish come up the stream – it’s a great way to support that ‘Natural Intelligence,’ as we encourage residents to build their knowledge of nature, parks and how to improve our environment.”