Rethinking Still Creek Watershed

The following press release is written by Silva Forest Foundation.

Still Creek made history in 2012
when salmon were coaxed to navigate deep within the boundaries of Metro Vancouver and spawned here for the first time in over 80 years. This breakthrough, hailed as a small but iconic victory for the entire region, proved what many thought impossible: even partially buried waterways with an intensive urban-industrial history can be recovered to the point where life returns. But can this hopeful glimmer of life be encouraged to stay for good?

Recent water quality improvements in Still Creek, and the addition of fish ladders that help make passage possible, have enabled a small group of chum salmon to reappear in their historic breeding grounds in East Vancouver, after making a harrowing journey in the dark beneath major roadways to achieve their “rewilded” destination. Now a bold vision is emerging to shift from a relatively piecemeal to a more systematic restoration of the Still Creek watershed, which is required to make a suitable home for a larger salmon population into the future.

Still Moon Arts Society, Silva Forest Foundation, Simon Fraser University, the Greenest City Fund, and the Charles & Lucille Flavelle Family Fund held at the Vancouver Foundation, have teamed up to provide the science, funding and community vision that are required to bring more native plants and animals back to Still Creek. Working with residents, students, artists and the City of Vancouver, the project partners are developing a watershed-wide restoration plan that ranges from collaborating with local schools and “rewilding” city parks, to creating rain gardens and mini-rainforests in private yards.

Still Creek is one of only two remaining streams in Vancouver not entirely locked underground in pipes and drains. The watershed that feeds the creek spans all the way from Renfrew-Collingwood in East Vancouver to the edge of Burnaby Lake. Once an old-growth forest, Vancouver’s historic creeks lost many of their natural functions as the city developed over and around them. The new plan for Still Creek focuses on restoring key features and ecosystem services to as close to the original state as is practical, with the end goal of stronger salmon returns, more cost-effective and long-term management of rainwater and seasonal flooding, and more nature for all to benefit from and enjoy. Earlier this year, the City of Vancouver estimated the value of its “Greenest City” brand at $31 billion, indicating that businesses and a host of other regional interests stand to gain a great deal from these sorts of improvements in land stewardship and, ultimately, our lifestyles.