Goodbye Chums event celebrates salmon in Maple Ridge

Release of salmon fry and official opening of the Kanaka Creek Watershed Stewardship Centre on Sunday

Kanaka Creek Regional Park had kids with buckets lined up for their turn to release salmon fry for the annual Goodbye Chums event on Sunday afternoon.

The day was also the official opening of the new Kanaka Creek Watershed Stewardship Centre, and Metro Vancouver chair Greg Moore and other officials from the regional parks authority were on hand for opening ceremonies.

Kids enjoyed face painting, games like catching a salmon with a rod magnetic fishing lure, and learning about the river ecosystem.

The Kanaka Creek Watershed Stewardship Centre includes a multi-purpose George Ross Learning Room, a separate resource building, ‘Roof-to-Creek’ Learning Landscape and the Bell-Irving Hatchery, which was rebuilt in 2013. A joint project between Metro Vancouver and the Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society (KEEPS), the Centre is designed to engage people in nature, watersheds, and citizen stewardship. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has also been a partner for more than 30 years in the hatchery operation.

“The addition of the Kanaka Creek Watershed Stewardship Centre will offer education and grassroots engagement on the critical importance of watershed stewardship and environmental sustainability,” said Heather Deal, chair of Metro Vancouver’s regional parks committee. “We are thrilled to officially open this Centre in Maple Ridge for the enjoyment of all Metro Vancouver residents and visitors.”

In the works for years, the centre is intended as an immersive and highly engaging place for visitors with a strong connection to the natural environment. Students, for instance, will be able to participate in hatchery activities, conduct water quality testing, survey stream invertebrates and restore habitat. Some 10,000 visitors, plus students from around Metro Vancouver, already visit the Bell-Irving Fish Hatchery each year to learn about the lifecycle of salmon and the environment needed to sustain them.

“This Centre has been a long-time dream and driver for the stewardship organization who mustered support, donations and volunteers to help create this anchor for its successful education programs, stewardship projects, and outreach,” said KEEPS Chair Ev Fairbrother. “Managing stormwater is key to protecting the Kanaka Creek watershed. The outdoor classroom, including the ‘Roof to Creek’ water features and interpretive signage, create a powerful teaching environment.”

Project funding came from Metro Vancouver, Pacific Salmon Foundation, Shell FuellingChange, KEEPS, Vancity and a bequest from the late George Ross. Pacific Parklands Foundation, a non-profit society established to support Metro Vancouver’s Regional Parks system, played a key role in fundraising.

The Kanaka Creek Watershed Stewardship Centre opening celebration was held in conjunction with the annual ‘Goodbye Chums’ salmon release, in partnership with KEEPS. This event is part of Metro Vancouver Regional Parks’ 50th celebration.

“As we celebrate 50 years of Metro Vancouver Regional Parks this year, we continue to enhance our expansive portfolio of parks, park reserves, greenways and ecological conservancy areas,” said Moore. “This addition will be a valuable hub for future generations to enjoy, connect with, and learn about nature.”

The forests, fish-laden pools, sandstone canyons and waterfalls of this 440-hectare (1,087-acre) regional park have made it a popular destination, with more than 400,000 visits in 2016.

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