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UBC alumnus donation enables salmon creek restoration in Pacific Spirit Regional Park

One of the last remaining urban creeks on the Burrard Peninsula has been restored to a more fish-friendly habitat, thanks to a donation from a UBC alumnus and a collaborative effort between Metro Vancouver, Musqueam Indian Band, UBC, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and community organizations.

Metro Vancouver’s vision to revitalize the creek, located in the northern part of Pacific Spirit Regional Park, dates back to 2012. The project moved forward last year thanks to a $250,000 donation to the university from UBC engineering alumnus Colin D. Watson and his wife Barbara, in memory of their son and fellow UBC graduate, Kevin Watson.

“Kevin was an avid outdoorsman who cared about the environment, and our family is honoured to have helped restore this creek in his name,” said Colin Watson.

The project was led by Metro Vancouver, with technical expertise from UBC, and in partnership with Musqueam Indian Band and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Northwest Hydraulic Consultants carried out the river engineering and restoration work. The Pacific Spirit Park Society, Wreck Beach Preservation Society and Spanish Bank Streamkeepers were also involved.

“This restoration focused on supporting native fish species such as Cutthroat trout and Coho salmon by improving overwintering habitat for juveniles and spawning opportunities for adults,” said Heather Deal, Chair of Metro Vancouver’s Regional Parks Committee. “We are keenly interested to see how this collaborative effort pays off in terms of allowing salmonids to return to the Burrard Peninsula.”

The project involved installing wooden panels in the culvert beneath NW Marine Drive to allow fish migration. Pools and riffles were created between the culvert and the high tide line using rocks, boulders and gravel, and large woody debris was added to provide a more complex stream habitat and to reduce bank erosion. Additionally, invasive English ivy was removed from the slopes, and the area was planted with bank-stabilizing native plants such as salmonberry.

“It is of great importance to see the continued restoration of our watershed within the traditional territory of the Musqueam people,” said Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow. “To see the return of our salmon to streams and creeks shows promise; as well, it provides a living classroom to teach future generations the importance of stewardship. Musqueam is very proud to work with the many good people who have been working very hard toward the restoration and rehabilitation of the creek.”

UBC civil engineering professor Don Mavinic, the principal investigator and volunteer on the project, praised both the collaborative effort and the results.

“It couldn’t have happened without the commitment of the Watson family, Musqueam people, Metro Vancouver, Northwest Hydraulic, the government agencies and the surrounding environmental community to restore this important creek,” said Mavinic.

This creek fish habitat enhancement project is part of the Metro Vancouver Ecological Health Action Plan. The creek will be monitored by Metro Vancouver staff to record when fish return to use their new and improved habitat in the coming months and years.