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Rivers to be celebrated Sunday

The estuary of the Englishman River is one of the areas of concern. - submitted
The estuary of the Englishman River is one of the areas of concern.
— image credit: submitted

Sunday will mark the 31st anniversary of BC Rivers Day.

Every year stewardship groups promote their initiatives to conserve and protect our waterways and this fall is no different with interpretive tours and more being offered on the banks of the Englishman and Little Qualicum rivers.

In Parksville an event is being held at the Englishman River estuary to educate the public on the restoration work undertaken by many volunteers on the Englishman River and it’s tributaries.

Few Oceanside residents have contributed more time to water issues than Mid-Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society’s (MVIHES) Faye Smith who will be on hand at the event on the Englishman River estuary from 1-3 p.m.

Smith says their group will be providing information on their activities and demonstrating some of the things they have been involved with.

She said it is a way to say thank you to the volunteers and hopefully encourage new people to join their cause.

Smith said although the Englishman River isn’t threatened like several other rivers around the province, there are still a few challenges to overcome before it becomes pristine again.

“The Englishman River watershed recovery plan which has been in effect for 10 years is starting to pay off and there have been some good things happening,” she said.

She points to the five kilometer side channel that was constructed by DFO over the last five years.

“It has been a huge success for rearing of coho and other juvenile fish. That side channel produced 40 percent of coho production in the Englishman River.”

She said that along with other installations has been positive.

She said they have a core of about a dozen volunteers out of their 35 members who have been doing a lot in the way of in stream restoration at Centre Creek a tributary of the Englishman and the work has been labour intensive.

“We’ve been dealing with a log jam by moving the debris and anchoring it so it doesn’t find its way downstream. It is important for the stream to have some some logs to provide habitat and bank stabilization. It’s hard labour. We get wet.”

She said in the past as well they have done some fish monitoring in the estuary and on the beach.

“They have been seining with a net for fish and pulling them in to count them, identify them and then put them back. It gives a good picture of the health of the estuary and how salmon and other species use it,” she said.

Smith said the biggest threats are continued development in watersheds and the impervious services that come along with it, noting that, without absorbent ground to seep into, pollutants wind up in drainage systems and eventually go unfiltered into nearby water systems.

Smith said they have also been busy keeping track of water quality through a monitoring program that is ongoing.

“One thing coming up that will be a great benefit as we look ahead to increasing populations is the groundwater study.”

She said they are now waiting for the hydrologists report anticipated this winter and it is expected to shed some light on our groundwater and the state of our aquifers.

Smith expressed hope that people will be inspired by the work her group is doing and will join their ranks.

“We’d like to see more people come out Sunday and especially young people because we will depend on them for carrying on the work that we’re doing,” she said.

Smith said they are setting up at the estuary because of the work they have done there and they will also be joined by members of the Arrowsmith Naturalists who will be available to take people around and explain the work they have been doing to eradicate invasive plant species in the area.

Though not a popular idea, there are some who would like to eradicate some of the Canada Geese who call the estuary home.

Smith said the birds have had the biggest impact on the estuary.

“It is not as healthy as it should be because geese chew off important vegetation that provide food for other migrating birds and cover for fish. When that grass dies down it provides nutrients for the next stage of life.”

Smith said the geese not only eat off vegetation but the roots as well and it has become a serious issue.

She said other groups are now starting to deal with the problem but admits it is a sensitive matter.

The Englishman River estuary is located at the bottom of Shelley Road in Parksville.

Not to be left out of the festivities the mid Island chapter of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee hosts a Rivers Day event along the Little Qualicum River that will include a tour of the third tallest Sitka Spruce tree in Canada.

Located along the salmon-rich Little Qualicum River, the 60 hectare Qualicum Beach Salmon Forest where the famous tree was discovered 12 years ago still remains unprotected from logging and development by Island Timberlands.

During the Rivers Day celebration this year, five year old Portia Miller who has been fundraising to help the Town of Qualicum Beach purchase the logging rights on a portion of the forest will be announcing her plans to further fundraise by cutting her waist-length blond hair as she explains that, “it takes a long time to grow back healthy trees but my hair will grow back quickly.”

WCWC mid-Island chair Annette Tanner said they want to help Portia’s dream come true.

“Because of the lack of protected areas that threaten not only the Qualicum Beach Salmon forest, but the Historic Mount Arrowsmith CPR Trail and countless other threatened areas on the East Coast of the Island, the Wilderness Committee will be launching and gathering signatures that day on a new petition to expand the Protected Areas within the East Vancouver Island (E&N) lands and will be calling on the federal and provincial governments to immediately assist the East Vancouver Island Municipal and Regional, Governments in increasing the present two percent protected areas on East Vancouver Island (E&N) lands to match the current 13 percent protected areas in the rest of British Columbia.

“Logging will continue in Cathedral Grove until it is protected,” said Tanner.

Information displays and salmon views are from 12 to 4 p.m. with the blessing of the salmon and hike starting at 1 p.m.

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