The French Creek estuary is home to more than 135 native and five introduced avian species. - Submitted photo

VIU researches importance of French Creek Estuary area

Estuary not currently included in any protected areas

The Friends of French Creek Conservation Society (FFCCS) sought out the expertise of VIU’s Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI) to help support their efforts to protect private property from development and become protected parkland.

“They approached us about a year ago to collaborate to find ways to support their efforts,” says Larissa Thelin, MABRRI assistant research and community engagement co-ordinator. “Our purpose was to create a research report to determine the value of the space to help assist in convincing another party to take the project on as a park.”

The French Creek estuary is home to more than 135 native and five introduced avian species. Despite its importance, the estuary is not currently included in any protected areas, meaning it is vulnerable to development and disturbance. The land in question is a 23-acre parcel located just north of the French Creek estuary. The acreage is a mixture of estuary, forested land, and wetlands. Protecting this particular property was the reason the Friends of French Creek Conservation Society formed back in 2004.

Related: French Creek development plans coming to regional district

Related: Locals support idea for new French Creek park

“Our goal from day one has been to save that land from development,” says Robin Robinson, the chair for the French Creek Estuary Land Committee.

With the support from the current land owners, French Creek Estates Ltd., MABRRI conducted a full report of the historical, community, and ecological values of the property. What was discovered is the land is home to a lot of wildlife – including migratory birds, a family of otters, deer, and fish.

“If the property was further developed into a residential space, this could potentially have negative effects on the stream and its inhabitants,” says Thelin.

Estuary is a mixture of salt and fresh water, making it a transition point for a lot of young fish, according to Robinson. “If we disrupt this important environment for our salmon and trout, it could affect our fish population in the area.”

Related: Conservation group works to protect estuary lands at French Creek

FFCCS conducted an online survey and received 342 responses from community members. Results showed 93.4 per cent supported the estuary park proposal. The main results of the survey are included in the MABRRI report.

“Our report demonstrates the importance of protecting this space as a public parkland,” Thelin said. “It has great potential to be an incredible interactive space for people to enjoy and learn about the environment, while maintaining a safe space for vegetation and wildlife.”

French Creek Estates Ltd. suggested interest in the formation of a public park as long as liability of the land could be transferred to an organization who could take on the management of the park indefinitely.

The FFCCS with the support of the French Creek Residents’ Association are currently in discussions to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the property owners that would declare up to 62 per cent of the 23 acres be donated as protected parkland. Before the land can be donated however, certain conditions must be met, which includes finding an organization(s) willing to take over responsibility of title and maintenance of the parkland.

— NEWS Staff; VIU

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