Volunteers champion our streams
Two foot waterfall.
Even it makes noises.
And at night is cool.
Japanese haiku creates a picture in 16 syllables, and if the subject is a healthy stream, the lingering sense of awe.
You could sit beside a babbling brook and feel this way without words.
Next to Golden Pond, for example. It’s a bulge in a tributary of the Alouette River just below the Hydro dam. Public vehicles aren’t allowed on the road up here, but ARMS has a key to the gate.
En route we passed the trees Hydro dropped to widen a transmission line; corpses in a riparian zone abandoned like fallen soldiers to rot on a battlefield.
It’s hoped the power company will airlift this carnage before heavy rain slides the debris downward to scour spawning gravel from the riverbed, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Nicole Dreidger, ARMS education coordinator, heads up the Adopt-a-Stream Program that began modestly with two creeks last year – Morse, which flows along 224th to the Alouette, and T2 near, the Davison cheese factory.
In 2013, the program’s swollen to eight creeks, thanks to growing community interest and financial support by Vancity and the Royal Bank.
Volunteer Stream Champions include Joe Zurich, for McKenney Creek near 207 Street. When Joe checks fish traps later this week, he’ll find coho and 70 sticklebacks. Zurich built nesting boxes for wood ducks at the edge of the creek behind his residence. Cameras are positioned to monitor the incubation of eggs, and chicks parachuting to the ground.
Doug Stanger (ARMS) is the volunteer for Millionaire Creek along Fern Crescent.
Cliff Olson is a fly fisherman who wryly claims he can observe fry from 150 feet and identify the species by swim pattern. He’ll later report a “nice sized coho smolt” in Coho Creek along 127 Avenue.
Bruce Hobbs (North Alouette) has advocated strongly for a sustainable water use plan for this river while more pumping licences are granted by the Province without proper forethought.
Liz Hancock, another ARMS director, checks Latimer Channel near 239th Avenue.
A sign posted near Golden Pond informed us that the area is habitat for a rare water shrew. The fish traps we set here today will eventually capture seven early coho fry and a northwestern salamander, proof of this stream’s productivity.
Blake Handford (Tributary 2) is a retired teacher. In T2, he’ll later recover coho fry. The proper name of this stream is probably lost to all but a few middle-aged men who caught trout in it as boys, but it runs clearly between farmer’s fields. Deciduous trees along its banks drop insect larvae for the fry to feed on.
Dreidger has charged each volunteer with checking fish type and numbers following this outing.
A Stream Keepers Manual illustrates differences between species: patches or parr marks along the sides or lateral lines of fish, tell-tale color around gills, spots on dorsal, or top-body and tail fins.
At Golden Pond, the lesson is suspending small bags of foul-smelling cat food from the centre of traps before placing them in pools behind rocks or logs.
“Don’t forget to mark the location with a flag,” advises Dreidger, “so you don’t get lost it when you come back to check.” It’s as easy to do as forgetting where you parked the car at the mall.
There’s an historic abuse of streams by cities committed in the name of urban growth and development. A lot was lost as a result. Streams support fish and wildlife, but also add to our quality of life. Vancouver buried 50 creeks when few understood this, but today its opening up and restoring brooks like Hastings Park Creek, which was piped and paved over.
In Maple Ridge, we haven’t done that yet. Most of our 600 kilometres of watercourses, even so-called ditches (something dug out rather than assigned a new name) are exposed and healthy. They take up water from subdivisions and roads. Creating swales or depressions in a watercourse increases its natural ability to filter toxins. There’s a lot we can do beyond expensive pipes and culverts paid for by developers or taxpayers, but we need the will.
The ARMS Adopt-a-Stream program encourages us to respect all our precious watercourses. That’s a big challenge.
Hancock has found “a couple of tires” discarded in Latimer Creek, and Handford notes “mounting garbage in the green belt behind the White Spot.” That part of McKenney is a haunt of transients and a small group of uninformed youth who leave fast food wrappers and pop containers in the stream.
Education is the key to sustaining streams. The district may launch an awareness program soon. ARMS has connected with 35 ecology minded kids at Garibaldi and Westview high schools.
Adult volunteers can call 604-467-6401.
If you can, find a two-foot waterfall and sit by it for a few minutes.
Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.