Sun, 26 Jun 2016

Mural Highlights Burrard Restoration Project

Students from North Vancouver elementary schools are helping create a giant stream mural at Mosquito Creek, one of four estuaries restored with funding from the Burrard Inlet Restoration Program. The mural, created by artist Ron den Daas, is a colourful reminder that the streams and estuaries along the Inlet were once prime salmonid habitat.



While salmonids remain an important part of Vancouver’s identity, the growth of the city caused many of its salmonid streams to disappear. Those remaining have been heavily degraded by urban and industrial development.


Image from Vancouver Street Stories,


Mosquito Creek estuary was reduced to less than 1% of its historical size, and that remaining sliver was devoid of suitable habitat for salmon or trout. In a recent article in the North Shore News, the Squamish Nation’s environmental co-ordinator, Randall Lewis, shares his memories of a much more vibrant ecosystem, and references elders’ stories of birds so numerous they “blocked out the sun”. While it’s unrealistic to expect we can rewind these highly altered habitats back to their undeveloped state, the restoration work that’s taken place at Mosquito Creek and other estuaries on the Inlet is a start, offering hope and inspiration to biologists, artists, elected officials and students alike. The amount of habitat restored at Mosquito may be small- a drop in the bucket, so to speak- but the project demonstrates that communities can come together to bring back a little of what’s been lost, even at the most severely degraded sites.



At the same time, the resources and efforts required to restore these estuaries to what’s still a fraction of their former capacity creates a convincing argument for protecting relatively intact habitats – an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.

 A portion of the concrete removed from the right bank of Mosquito Creek.


Work on the Mosquito Creek mural will continue throughout the summer, with official unveiling taking place in September as part of the Coho Festival. In the meantime, the work-in-progress is easily viewed from the foot path along Bewicke Avenue. While you’re there, be sure to take a look at the recently completed restoration work on the west bank of the lower estuary. To view one of the more “mature” restoration projects completed as part of the Burrard Inlet Restoration Program, take a short walk west along the Spirit Trail to MacKay Creek, which has inspired its own series of paintings.

The mural was made possible through the contributions of The Coho Society of the North Shore, HCTF, Environment Canada, the North Shore Streamkeepers, and a North Shore Recreation and Culture Commission Grant.


A ladybug checks out the students’ contributions to the Mosquito Creek mural.

Tue, 15 Dec 2015

New Nesting Platform Eagle-Approved

Photo by Fiona Wright

Residents of Vancouver’s North Shore have some new feathery neighbours. A pair of bald eagles has moved into a nesting platform built last summer at MacKay Creek estuary, which was recently restored as part of HCTF’s Burrard Inlet Restoration Pilot Program. Eric Anderson of the BC Institute of Technology led the project to construct a platform at the head of the estuary, adjacent to the Spirit Trail. The host tree was selected by biologist David Hancock, whose extensive experience with eagle nest construction was critical to identifying a cottonwood of suitable size, shape, and location. To get the tree eagle-ready, arborists carefully pruned some of the non-dominant stems to improve accessibility. Next, a cedar frame was attached using special lines designed to allow the tree to move and grow unharmed.

The frame is put in place - Photo by Ryan Senechal

Finally, the frame was lined with cedar boughs to make it a little more inviting for any prospective tenants.

Cedar branches are added to make the nest more inviting - photo by Ryan Senechal

It appears to have worked!

Photo by Fiona Wright

HCTF provided a grant both for the construction of the platform as well as complementary studies by four BCIT students? of eagle ecology that will inform future nest construction projects. The grant was made possible through an endowment HCTF received from the Ministry of Transportation as part of a compensation strategy for a bald eagle nest tree removed for the 2010 Highway 91 Interchange project. ?

Mon, 24 Aug 2015

Rewilding Burrard Inlet

HCTF’s Burrard Inlet Restoration Pilot Program was recently featured in the Vancouver Sun and CBC News as a great example of rewilding, the concept of supporting the re-establishment of key species in areas where human actions have caused them to disappear.

Though the term “rewilding” has been around since the mid-nineties, the idea has received increased media attention in BC with the publication of Vancouverite J.B. McKinnon’s Once and Future World. Increasingly, biologists, NGOs, corporations and governments are considering the potential of restoring fish and wildlife habitat in even the most urban areas, re-connecting a city with its not-so-distant, wilder past. For example, Vancouver was once home to over 50 salmon streams, most of which have been eliminated through residential and industrial development. Those that have survived are often heavily degraded, especially their estuarine habitats where freshwater meets sea. These estuaries are critically important for juvenile salmonids that are transitioning to salt water, and these have been the focus for restoration work under the Burrard Inlet Restoration Pilot Program.

HCTF created the Burrard program in 2012 as a way of maximizing the benefits that could be achieved using creative sentencing money from the 2007 Burnaby oil spill. Projects rehabilitating historical fish habitat at MacKay Creek and Seymour River estuary have already resulted in increased numbers of fish making it up the waterways to spawn. Work is currently underway at Lynn Creek estuary and pending at Mosquito Creek estuary, with hopes that salmon and cutthroat trout populations can also be restored to these systems.

You can listen to HCTF Board member and Director of the Rivers Institute Dr. Ken Ashley talk about rewilding efforts in Burrard Inlet and across BC on CBC’s BC Almanac this Friday, August 28th at 12:30pm (rescheduled from Wednesday, Aug 26th).


Fri, 1 May 2015

Underwater Peek at New Generation of Coho in MacKay Creek

A school of young coho salmon was recently spotted in the upper reaches of MacKay Creek estuary on Vancouver’s North Shore, just upstream of where a large concrete weir was removed in September 2013 as part of the Burrard Inlet Restoration Pilot Program.

The red arrow in the aerial photo below shows the location where the coho were spotted and the blue arrow points to the former site of the weir, which had blocked fish from accessing the upper estuary and creek during low tide. Since the weir’s removal, chum salmon have been spotted making their way up the creek, but this is our first look at evidence that coho have successfully spawned in the recently-restored system. Dr. Ken Ashley, HCTF Board member and Director of BCIT’s Rivers Institute, says that with the weir gone (and depending on ocean survival rates), we should start to see the rebuilding of the coho population in MacKay Creek.



Wed, 8 Oct 2014

HCTF Board Visits BIRPP Restoration Sites in Vancouver


Creekway_Park_vegetation.jpgThe weather may have been less than ideal, but it didn’t stop HCTF Board & staff members from setting out to view some of the sites being restored as part of the Burrard Inlet Restoration Pilot Program (BIRPP). BIRPP was created by HCTF to invest court-awarded funds from the 2007 Burnaby oil spill in projects that would restore habitat near the site of impact. By soliciting specific types of proposals and setting minimum fund leveraging requirements, this pilot program represents a shift from HCTF’s historical granting model, and Board members were eager to see the results of this new type of investment strategy.

The morning began at New Brighton Park in East Vancouver. A weathered sign at the entrance to the park boasts that this is birthplace of Vancouver, home to the City’s first post office, dock, CPR and customs office back in 1865. Now it exists as waterfront recreation area, built on fill and leaving little evidence of the salmon-bearing stream that once flowed through here out into Burrard Inlet. As part of the 2011 Hastings Park and PNE Master Plan, the City of Vancouver has started to unearth Renfrew Creek, one of Vancouver’s many lost streams. The first phase of the Plan involved the creation of the aptly-named Creekway Park. The City has converted an overflow parking lot back into a rich greenscape of native vegetation surrounding an unearthed section of creek. The park will eventually become part of the planned ecological corridor running from Sanctuary Pond in Hastings Park through New Brighton Park and out to Burrard Inlet. As part of BIRPP, HCTF provided a $5000 seed grant to BCIT student Sarah Nathan to assess water quality and terrain of the park. The data collected will be incorporated into the City’s plan to construct a saltwater marsh habitat on Burrard Inlet and daylight the section of the stream that will to connect it to the Creekway Park project.

Our next stop was Stanley Park, where HCTF provided a $55,000 grant to the Stanley Park Ecological Society to restore access for salmonids to Beaver Creek. Flowing from Beaver Lake out into Burrard Inlet, Beaver Creek is one of only three remaining salmon-bearing streams in the City of Vancouver. Historically, this waterway supported populations of both coho salmon and coastal cutthroat trout, but development and degradation of Beaver Lake has caused the stream to deteriorate to the point where the survival of these fish is threatened.

Since 2010, the Stanley Park Ecology Society has been actively engaged in monitoring the water quality and fish populations in Beaver Creek to assess potential activities to restore and enhance habitat. Last year, the Society initiated the first phase of a creek restoration project, which included stabilizing creek banks by removing invasive plants and replacing them with native species to boost habitat for insects, the main diet of fish in the creek. The next phase of the project will use BIRPP funding to improve fish access by both reducing the height of the seawall barrier and constructing a step-pool at the Pipeline Road bridge fish barrier to allow fish to enter the creek under a variety of stream flow conditions. The Society also plans to create a pocket estuary next to the seawall to improve spawning and rearing habitat for fish.





Next, we headed across the bridge to Vancouver’s North Shore to view the first project completed under the BIRPP program. It’s been one year since the finishing touches were put on the restoration work at MacKay Creek , and even the heavy rain couldn’t detract from its impressive transformation.


In 2013, Northwest Hydraulic Consultants received a $160,000 grant for this project, which included removal of a concrete weir blocking fish from entering the creek at low tide. The barrier made them easy pickings for hungry seals feeding in the lower part of the estuary.


The weir was replaced with a naturalized creek outlet. The project also included construction of a saltmarsh and planting of native vegetation in the place of invasive species removed from the shoreline. Neighbouring Bodwell High School helped with the planting, and their Director of Residence Stephen Goobie put together a great compilation of photos showing the site’s progression from degraded habitat to functional pocket estuary:

From MacKay, we walked to Mosquito Creek Estuary, where work has yet to begin on the most degraded site being restored as part of the BIRPP program. Mosquito Creek has been heavily impacted by urbanization: historically, the site supported a large estuary, which was dredged and filled to the point where it no longer exists. HCTF has provided an $88,500 grant to the Squamish Nation to restore some of what was lost through the creation of a 1000sq m intertidal reef and benches that will provide habitat for native fish and other estuarine species. Work on the Mosquito Creek project is scheduled to begin next month.

Our last stop was Seymour River Estuary, where Board Members were able to view the most recent restoration work funded by the BIRPP program. HCTF Board Member Dr. Ken Ashley and his colleague Dave Harper explained how students of BCIT’s Ecological Restoration program had created cover for juvenile fish by attaching giant logs to boulders with epoxy and steel cable.



You can listen to Dave Harper speaking about the project (under clearer skies) in this news segment from JoyTV:



HCTF provided $60,000 to the Seymour Salmonid Society for the restoration of Seymour River Estuary, which is due to be completed next spring. The hatchery says the enhancements to the site will help increase survival rates for the thousands of chum, coho and steelhead smolts they release each year.



The persistent rain may have put a bit of a damper on the excursion, but HCTF Board and staff members still enjoyed the opportunity to get a first-hand look at how the Burrard Inlet Restoration Pilot Program is progressing. The work completed at New Brighton, MacKay and Seymour illustrates the potential of urban restoration projects: their footprint may be smaller than some of HCTF’s rural projects, but they show tremendous potential to inform and inspire people about how we can rewild even the most degraded of habitats. Our sincere thanks to Dr. Ken Ashley and Dave Harper for leading us on an informative journey to view a unique set of projects.


Thu, 28 Aug 2014
Tags: Fisheries

Shaping up Seymour

Seymour estuary restoration earth moving.jpg

is well on its way to being restored to an important transition ground for juvenile seagoing trout, char and salmon making their way out to Burrard Inlet. Major earth moving work for this BIRPP project was completed last week, reshaping and contouring the estuary to make it more hospitable for the fish and other organisms that historically thrived there. Creosote-soaked structures leaking contaminants and invasive plants were removed from the estuary, and huge logs and boulders were strategically placed to both provide cover for young salmonids and to protect the native vegetation that will be planted here next spring. These plantings will complete the site’s transformation from an estuary with virtually no cover or foraging habitat to a functional ecosystem offering multiple benefits to fish, wildlife and humans.


The work at the Seymour River estuary will soon be followed by earth moving at another BIRPP estuary restoration project, Mosquito Creek. This estuary has been reduced to 1% of its historical size through waterfront industrial development. This will be an excellent opportunity to view restoration work in progress, as the site is located at a key junction point for the North Shore Spirit Trail. Check back here in September for more BIRPP project updates.