DESIGN WITH NATURE TO CREATE LIVEABLE COMMUNITIES AND PROTECT STREAM HEALTH: “Today, what we as leaders do, will resound for the people of the future, their cities and their regions. In fact, for the world at large,” stated Lois Jackson, former Board Chair of the Metro Vancouver Regional District, in her call for action (February 2022)

Note to Reader:

Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who are guided by the vision for Living Water Smart in British Columbia to build greener communities and adapt to a changing climate; and embrace “design with nature” approaches to reconnect people, land, fish, and water in altered landscapes. 

The theme for the edition published on February 22, 2022 was intergenerational change as illustrated by a “flashback story” about British Columbia’s Green Infrastructure Partnership, with emphasis on the timely role played by Lois Jackson when she was Board Chair, Metro Vancouver Regional District.


There is a saying, look back to move forward. When each generation of practitioners understands and cares about the oral history of green infrastructure in a Living Water Smart context, then successive generations of practitioners are more likely to select the right path forward at each generational inflection point.

Intergenerational sharing, and the learning from experience that goes with it, is a work in progress. How We Transform the Land – Intergenerational Vision to Change Standards of Practice is a legacy document in the Living Water Smart in British Columbia Series. It provides the reader with a window into one dimension of the building blocks process that guides the work of the Partnership for Water Sustainability.

The storyline for this legacy document is structured in four parts:

Part 1 is an essay by Lois Jackson, former Mayor of the City of Delta. Her reflections on what she has observed and experienced over five decades are insightful. Her reflections explain why she was receptive to an overture from the Green Infrastructure Partnership in 2006 when she was in a position of leadership and authority as Chair, Metro Vancouver Regional Board.

Part 2 is the “story behind the story” of the players who were in the right place at the right time in 2003, seized the moment to form the Green Infrastructure Partnership, and developed the “Design with Nature” framework for integrating across infrastructure systems.

Part 3 describes building blocks in a collaborative and consultative process that secured high-level support from elected representatives for a “convening for action” vision to change the way that communities use and develop land by designing with nature.

Part 4 foreshadows how early successes in the Metro Vancouver region were replicated and then built upon by the CAVI-Convening for Action on Vancouver Island initiative, beginning in 2007. Under the banner of Living Water Smart, BC’s Water Plan, this work-in-progress continues to this day. It is a building blocks process.

Curious to learn more? Click on the image below and download the latest document in the Living Water Smart Series. The PDF document is an expanded version of this article.




“We learn through stories. This is the context for How We Transform the Land – Intergenerational Vision to Change Standards of Practice. The story of the Green Infrastructure Partnership (GIP) is a preview of how the Partnership will be drawing on our archival resources throughout 2022. We strive to connect dots in ways that audiences find compelling, relevant and timely. Our hope is that readers of Waterbucket eNews would then be inspired to move the ball forward in their communities,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Executive Director.

“The process for intergenerational change is one of building blocks combined with seizing the moment when there is an opportunity. Invariably, it is a matter of the right people being in the right place at the right time. This is illustrated by the story of the GIP.”

“The purpose of storytelling is to illustrate how ‘we got from there to here’ through commitment and perseverance when the players are guided by a shared vision. Transferring knowledge and understanding through storytelling is part and parcel of how we hand-off the intergenerational baton to those who are keen to build on experience.”

“An essay contributed by Lois Jackson, a former Chair of the Metro Vancouver Regional District, is the trigger for publishing How We Transform the Land. First elected to Delta City Council in 1973, she served as Mayor from 1999 until 2018, at which time she stepped down and was re-elected as a Councillor. Lois Jackson also served as Chair of the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors from 2006 to 2011.”

“As Board Chair, Lois Jackson was an advocate for the GIP. Knowing one’s history helps one understand why and how things happen, as well as how the ripple effects of decisions and actions can play out over decades.”

“Under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan, a “convening for action” process in British Columbia has been a work-in-progress for the past two decades. The timely role played by Mayor Lois Jackson is an integral part of the Action Plan storyline.”

Companion documents in the Living Water Smart Series:
“We learn through stories”

How We Transform the Land is a companion to “Design With Nature” Framework, which we featured in Waterbucket eNews last week. In fact, today’s story springboards from an introduction to the GIP on page 10 of the latter document.”

How We Transform the Land connects a series of dots about the GIP and past interactions with Lois Jackson. Interweaving the GIP storyline provides historical context, serving as a reminder of the importance of knowing one’s history.”  

“Formed in 2003 and co-funded by the provincial and local governments and the Real Estate Foundation, the GIP provided provincial leadership and influenced the nature and direction of the green infrastructure conversation in this province. The GIP was one of six original elements of the Water Sustainability Action Plan when it was released in 2004.”

“The original 5-person GIP Leadership Team comprised Chuck Gale (Founding Chair), Kim Stephens (Action Plan Coordinator), Ray Fung, Dale Wall, and Deborah Curran. They represented four organizations plus the Action Plan. Within the first year, Paul Ham and Susan Rutherford replaced Chuck Gale and Deborah Curran, respectively. The four organizations shared a vision of making green infrastructure practices more prevalent in communities across BC.”

“The website is the repository for our oral history. Beginning with a Ministerial announcement in 2005, we have been systematically enhancing the website and growing the archives. Because we have so much oral history on the record, there are multiple ways to slice and dice how we may present information, as well as what information to slice and dice, and when,” concludes Kim Stephens.


“Design With Nature” – An essay by Mayor Lois Jackson

The catalyst for Lois Jackson providing her reflections was an “oral history” published in June 2020 by the Partnership. Titled Delta’s Rain Garden Program for Urban Landscape Enhancement: Sustaining the Legacy through the Second Decade and Beyond, this historical perspective honours and celebrates the pioneering efforts of Lois Jackson and three other rain garden champions in the City of Delta.

Guided by An Intergenerational Perspective

“Today, what we as leaders do, will resound for the people of the future, their cities and their regions. In fact, for the world at large. One of the reasons that I ran for office in 1972, and why I served for 20 years as Mayor of Delta, and 6 years at Chair of Metro Vancouver was ‘to make a difference’…. a difference to the children and their families of the future,” wrote Lois Jackson.

“But we are wrong to stop there because we must also consider that we are not the only ones sharing this planet, and what we do on a daily basis, can impact positively or negatively having a resounding effect and rippling effect of which we must be aware.”

“How best to teach and lead the people to be generous to others and gentle with all species and their environment, of land, air and water? Well, I must go back to when I first met Deborah Jones, when she called my office one fine day inviting me and my executive assistant to have tea on her front yard by her ‘ditch’…. Deborah lives on a lovely sloping corner lot with a circular ditch system next to the roadway. ‘Yes, of course we will come’, says I wondering what was to follow!

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

Genesis of Delta’s Rain Garden Program: A Tea Party Next to “the Ditch”

“Deborah had ‘the tea’ laid out on the grass next to the ‘ditch’. Upon perusing the situation, I found that this was no ordinary ‘ditch’; it was full in abundance with wildflowers, grasses, and was a veritable beauty to behold!! Deborah explained the science behind drainage of residential areas, slowing down the speed of the runoff, cleansing the waters that made their way back to the ocean, providing habitat for birds, bees and small wild things!!”

“Hence the idea was hatched of the rain gardens. And I thought ‘what better way to make a difference’; teach the children how to use their muscles and brains outdoors to in turn ‘make a difference’.”

“Deborah, being the very quiet and unassuming person that she is, has worked tirelessly with her band of ‘Stream Keepers’ to bring this idea into reality. As Mayor, I had a certain influence over the Council for 20 years, assisting through utilizing our engineering and environmental staff to bring this idea into reality.”

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson at Richardson School on rain garden planting day (2011)

Call to Action to Make the Vision a Reality: “If You Can Dream It – You Can Do It”  

“How proud I was to attend the schools for all these years to be on hand to listen to the ‘world lesson’ that Deborah taught to the children through planting rain gardens on the school grounds. I remember always telling the children at these times that, as they become adults and move throughout the world, to share your message of looking after and caring for people, yes, but also take care of the environment because, if they don’t, who will?”

“I hoped they would take that message through their lives and take action on it. You see I learned these lessons when I was a youngster, many years ago in my hometown of Sudbury, Ontario when International Nickel belched out thousands and thousands of tons of sulphur smoke each hour of each day.”

Lessons Learned During Childhood:

“It was a thick fog and actually burned the edges of the lettuce leaves in my mom’s garden. We had to tear off those brown edges when we cleaned the lettuce for lunch. When walking to school or running through the fields, it would burn your throat and make you cough. Do you think I loved and appreciated the clean air of B.C. when we moved here in 1968? You bet I did!!”

“One of the first things I did when I became Mayor in 1999 was to introduce our community to caring about of our air, land and water. Many were opposed to this position, I must say. But we persevered and, as a result, I believe we have set a good example over all these years of good stewardship.”

“One of the things of which I am most proud is our success in leading four levels of government to purchase Burns Bog. I feel that is one of the legacies I can leave in my life’s goal of ‘making my difference’….!!”

“But I regress, yes, as one who has seen and done many things, I have learned that we must all be leaders who selflessly have a vision, and we must then act to make the vision a reality, because air, water and continents are interconnected and if you can dream it — you can do it,” concluded Lois Jackson.

Oral History Connects Dots: Know, Understand and Care –Quotable Quotes Help to Tell a Story

Chuck Gale as chair brought instant credibility to the GIP within the Metro Vancouver region. When he retired from local government, Chuck Gale recruited Paul Ham, General Manager of Engineering with the City of Surrey, to succeed him. Paul further elevated the GIP profile because Surrey was seen to be at the forefront of green infrastructure innovation.

Paul then reached out to his peers in the Metro Vancouver region and asked them to participate in the Green Infrastructure Consultation Workshop in May 2005. This event proved to be a game-changer. The program design (shown below) was an application of the What, So What mind-map developed by the late Erik Karlsen (1945-2020) for change management.

Showcase and Celebrate Innovation

“The 2005 workshop truly was a dynamic and transformational event; and inspired a complete revamping of our approach and work plan for a Model Subdivision Bylaw and green infrastructure standards. This influenced everything that followed, including on Vancouver Island,” stated Ray Fung afterwards. In 2008, he succeeded Paul Ham as GIP Chair. He is a Partnership Director.

“As we went around the table, the stories came out as to what Metro Vancouver municipalities were doing. A common refrain was, we didn’t know you were doing that. The energy in the room just kept building and building. At the end of the day, we literally tore up our work plan.”

“It was clear that practitioners did not need another guidance document that would go on a shelf. Rather, they needed to network and learn from each other. In 2006, the GIP launched the pilot Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation Series. The goal, share experience and lessons learned as an outcome of designing with nature.”

About the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC

Technical knowledge alone is not enough to resolve water challenges facing BC. Making things happen in the real world requires an appreciation and understanding of human behaviour, combined with a knowledge of how decisions are made. It takes a career to figure this out.

The Partnership has a primary goal, to build bridges of understanding and pass the baton from the past to the present and future. To achieve the goal, the Partnership is growing a network in the local government setting. This network embraces collaborative leadership and inter-generational collaboration.