Reflecting Still Creek is an ecosystem-based stewardship and art project in Renfrew Ravine and Still Creek done in collaboration with various youth, artist, environment, community, and educational organizations. This project provided a model for community-led urban ecological restoration, and for environmental organizations to connect with urban populations.
Why did this project happen?
Cities have been unnecessarily expunged of nature. This robs us of our full human potential, and divorces us from our innate affiliation with the living biosphere. It is well documented that this exacts a significant emotional, psychological, spiritual, and physiological toll, especially on our children. While the ravine is a huge resource for some community members, some fear its wildness, unaware of its value as a natural environment that provides water disposal services for the community, a habitat for birds and other wildlife, and that improves air quality.
Other issues of environmental concern include slope stability, flooding, and access to the creek and invasive plant species. Some studies on this have been done, but not effectively implemented. There are very few models of successfully restoring an urban watershed, including a watercourse used as a storm sewer and a steep ravine, in ways that reconnect people to nature, engage the local community, and instill a lasting ecological ethic.
Reflecting Still Creek leverages Still Moon’s deep connections in the community by bringing together environmentalists, ecologists, academics, youth, seniors, and the arts community to restore a watershed, enhance a neighbourhood, and pioneer a model for lasting change. This project shifts us from defending Still Creek and its watershed, to pro-actively restoring and protecting it. In the past 15 years, many community members have volunteered for Renfrew Ravine and Still Creek. Since the advent of the Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival in 2003 and community-engaged art and native plant garden projects, garbage dumping has been reduced as the community has grown to further appreciate the ravine and its benefits. Fish are returning as the stream is restored, and ecosystem-based stewardship projects like Reflecting Still Creek continue to nurture this development.
What has happened?
In the Autumn of 2012 we met with the Vancouver Parks Board, contributing to their long term planning process for Renfrew Park and Renfrew Ravine.
Herb Hammond also came to Vancouver twice and we met with Parks Board staff, City Councillors, local seniors, Ecology 9 students from Windermere, our Advisory committee, and SFU students from the Centre for Sustainability program.
We also be worked on an ephemeral art project with First Nations artist Jolene Andrew, artist Carmen Rosen, and another group of students from the Athena arts Program at Windermere. Still Moon has also worked with Historian Bruce McDonald to hold numerous Still Creek Lost and Found walking tours.
Who was involved?
Partnering Organization – Silva Forest Foundation (http://www.silvafor.org)
Herb Hammond is leading collaborative research intended to provide an understanding of the “character” of Still Creek (the natural composition, structure, and function of the ecosystem) and its long history of human interaction and modification. This understanding will provide a “compass bearing” to guide future restoration work. The work will help in training local youth from Windermere Secondary School in ecological restoration planning and implementation, who will then take on leadership of appropriate restoration. Knowledge held by community members and professionals on the complexities of working with ecosystems to create a healthy and vibrant natural area will be embedded within the school’s sustainable stewardship practices. The students will learn how to liaise with different stakeholder organizations, actively assist the community to undertake activities in yards, laneways and parking spots that assist in restoration efforts, and will train the ravine stewards for the following year.
The collaboration includes multiple generations and professional disciplines; all seeking to better understand one particular place. It starts by bringing together the historical perspectives of senior citizens that have lived in the area their whole lives, of the First Nations peoples and of the youth and families beginning their lives in a place steeped with history. Convergence of these perspectives will be guided by educators (at Windermere Secondary School), artists (through Still Moon), and ecologists (through the Silva Forest Foundation).
Windermere Secondary School Leadership Program – We are working with the Ecology 9 Leadership class – They are mapping the ravine, learning about native and invasive species, doing monthly water quality analysis, working on restoring a particular area that they will steward for the next 4 years at high school, and they are outreaching to the community at large to involve the neighbourhood in ecosystem restoration.
Windermere Athena Arts Program – we are working with Athena students to create ephemeral art inspired by Andy Goldsworthy in response to the ravine. Local Artist and Canoe club leader Jolene Andrew is also introducing 1st nations’ use of shapes in nature to inspire traditional and contemporary west coast art.
Simon Fraser University graduate students from the Centre for Sustainable Community Development will research the natural character of the watershed and its current condition, will assess the impact of using the creek for stormwater drainage and will develop ways to reduce storm water along with a cost benefit analysis of putting in place ecosystem-based solutions to storm water drainage.
Collingwood Neighbourhood House (http://www.cnh.bc.ca/aboutcnh.htm) will provide networking with diverse communities and consolidate support for ravine stewardship following on their support for the initial ravine committee in the 90’s.
CREW (Renfrew Collingwood Aboriginal Youth Canoe Club) will share knowledge of traditional materials and their uses and traditional uses of the land and waterways in the Still Creek Watershed.
David Suzuki Foundation (http://www.davidsuzuki.org/about/) is committed to leveraging the success of this project to help replicate the work in other places across Canada, and to broadly disseminating the information from this project to other municipalities and environmental organizations