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.

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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, http://vancouverstreetstories.com/lost-streams-of-vancouver/

 

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.

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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.