Lifetime Member – Deborah Jones (inducted in 2021)

Note to Reader:

The City of Delta is midway through the Second Decade of its rain garden program. For the past 15 years, Deborah Jones has been an instrumental player in this highly collaborative and very successful partnership between local government and the stewardship sector. Her story is showcased by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in the document titled Delta’s Rain Garden Program for Urban Landscape Enhancement: Sustaining the Legacy through the Second Decade and Beyond, published in 2020.

In 2021, the Partnership honoured Deborah Jones as a Lifetime Member due to her extraordinary contributions that “make real” the vision for Living Water Smart in British Columbia by implementing “design with nature” solutions that reconnect people, land, fish, and water in altered landscapes. 

Deborah Jones, Rain Garden Champion

Deborah Jones has a BA in Urban Studies, a Masters of Library Science, and worked for Vancouver Public Library for over 30 years.

She and husband Ib Nielsen joined Cougar Creek Streamkeepers in 2004, after noticing illegal tree-cutting on the banks of North Delta’s most productive salmon stream. They put their gardening experience to work on a restoration planting project along that streambank — which gave them many opportunities to observe the impacts of urban runoff close-up, as it poured directly into Cougar Creek at Scott Road from nearby malls, streets and residential areas.

These observations in turn inspired Deb’s request to the Corporation (now City) of Delta, for a stormwater infiltration pilot project — a request that materialized in 2006 as Cougar Canyon Elementary School Rain Garden, under the leadership of then-Manager of Utilities Hugh Fraser and urban landscape designer Sarah Howie.

With support from Mayor & Council, that project was followed by many more. Deb now serves as volunteer Rain Gardens Coordinator for the Streamkeepers, overseeing the maintenance of 29 school and community rain gardens that were installed in collaboration with the City of Delta, Delta School District, Pacific Salmon Foundation, BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Nature Trust of BC and others. She also advises the Nature Trust and Be the Change Earth Alliance on their rain garden programs.

Deb is a source of inspiration for many stewardship groups, both in the Metro Vancouver region and on the east coast of Vancouver Island.

The photo is the Trent Street Rain Garden, the City of Victoria’s flagship rain garden.

Delta’s Rain Garden Program for Urban Landscape Enhancement: Sustaining the Legacy through the Second Decade and Beyond

Looking back, I see now that the rain garden program evolved gradually, in the manner of any good garden — from early conversations in 1999, through the first rain garden in 2006, to the 29 school and community rain gardens in 2019,” Deborah Jones stated in a moment of reflection. “The rain garden at Cougar Canyon Elementary School established a precedent for citizen science in action in Delta. Twenty-eight similar collaborative projects followed during the period 2009 through 2019. There have also been many City-only projects where there has been no volunteer participation.”

Quotable Quotes:

“The City of Delta has a long history of working closely with the Cougar Creek Streamkeepers on projects that improve watershed conditions,” Mayor George Harvie, City of Delta.

“One example of this is the highly successful rain garden program, which has not only increased stormwater infiltration in our urban areas but has also created beautiful amenities in the community.

“The close collaboration between the City, the Streamkeepers, other volunteers and the Delta School District is what has allowed the rain garden program to persist for 15 years. I look forward to encouraging these types of projects in the years to come.”

An Implementation Perspective

“The ‘pioneering’ days of Delta’s rain garden program were a great time of trial and error. We enjoyed the creative challenges of figuring out ways to work around underground utilities, move water across sidewalks and down slopes, deal with unexpected high water tables and poor drainage, and predict which plants would survive the particular site conditions of each garden,” continued Dr. Sarah Howie, Office of Climate Action & Environment, City of Delta. Dr. Howie, a landscape architect, was originally hired by Delta Engineering and partnered with an engineer to form a rain garden design team. This was a precedent-setting action.

“The most interesting part of designing rain gardens was that every single garden was unique to the site, so there were no cookie-cutter designs. We always got to try something new. If it worked out, we would use the best elements in the next garden, in a process of continual refinement.

“The success of Delta’s rain garden program is largely thanks to the leadership and committed involvement of the Cougar Creek Streamkeepers. Their energetic and dedicated volunteers keep the rain gardens functional and beautiful, which gives the city confidence to do more of these types of projects.”

Cougar Canyon Elementary School – the first rain garden project organized by Deborah Jones