RE-DEVELOPMENT CREATES A RESTORATION OPPORTUNITY FOR THE CAPITAL REGION’S BOWKER CREEK: “Like any long-term relationship, effort and commitment are required. Fortunately for Bowker Creek, many individuals and groups have decided to believe in a future where the water is clean, wildlife have a home, floods are controlled, and the creek is an asset to all the neighbourhoods it flows through,” stated Tanis Gower, Bowker Creek Initiative Coordinator
Note to Reader:
Reproduced below is an article by Tanis Gower, Bowker Creek Initiative Coordinator. Her article was titled “Bowker Creek: a long-term relationship”.
Re-Development at Oak Bay High School Creates a Creek Restoration Opportunity
“Bowker Creek is like most urban creeks – it’s in rough shape. Luckily, it also has some advantages. Bowker Creek runs through a densely populated area full of citizens who want more nature, less pollution, and better greenway corridors in their neighbourhoods. They have supported their municipalities – Oak Bay, Saanich and Victoria – to become part of the Bowker Creek Initiative, a partnership of groups working steadily to raise awareness and to address the problems of polluted water, flooding, and habitat degradation,” Tanis Gower wrote.
“Change is slow in the urban environment. It usually happens with re-development of individual lots as buildings wear out or as population density increases. With re-development comes opportunity for creek restoration or creek day-lighting (opening buried sections). However, since restoration opportunities happen on a lot-by-lot basis over time, a long term plan and policies need to be in place.
“The Bowker Creek Initiative (BCI) is working to produce a plan that includes policy recommendations by the end of 2009. Creek restoration opportunities typically arise with little warning, and the BCI’s detailed plan and long-term vision will help all its partners be ready.”
Oak Bay High School
“Re-development at Oak Bay High School highlights the need to be prepared. The school is aging and due for a major upgrade, and officials have decided to construct a new building. Currently, Bowker Creek runs along the edge of the property in a narrow, deep ditch with a concrete bottom. The ditched section at Oak Bay High school is typical. When most of the buildings in the watershed were constructed, creeks were not valued like they are today.
Consequences of Historical Development
“The native vegetation was removed, the floodplain was filled in to make room for development, and the channel was deepened and straightened to move water more quickly off the land. This has left a legacy of habitat destruction, bank erosion, invasive species and flooding problems. This is in addition to the pollution problems caused by the run-off from our streets and buildings.
“We no longer have the free-flowing salmon stream that once supported local First Nations. But we have not forgotten the creek. Unlike many urban creeks, some of Bowker Creek (about 40%) is still above ground. The water still flows, and society’s expectations have changed.”
Vision for Creek Restoration
“At Oak Bay High School, the new facility and fields may allow for a wider creek corridor with a more natural stream channel and native streamside plants and trees. As the plan for the school is developed, the school board will investigate whether and how much land might be available to restore Bowker Creek. If the school board dedicates the land, the BCI partners would need to find grant money to make this project a reality.
“There is extensive public support for a healthy Bowker Creek, and awareness is growing all the time. Creek restoration and greenway creation are efforts that are well understood to be important and worthwhile. In addition, municipalities and regular citizens are beginning to understand that taking care of the watershed is just as important as taking care of the creek corridor.”
Low Impact Development
“Low Impact Development is the buzz-word for an approach to hold more water on the land to simulate what happens in nature. Instead of letting water rush off our streets and buildings into pipes that feed the creek, we can create rain gardens or install permeable pavers to let the water soak in. This has the double benefit of cleaning the water. Studies have shown that it is possible to reverse some if not most of the flooding and erosion problems in urban creeks through simple measures like these.”
“Having a caring relationship with an urban creek means taking the long-term view while working to improve conditions today. Like any long-term relationship, effort and commitment are required. Fortunately for Bowker Creek, many individuals and groups have decided to believe in a future where the water is clean, wildlife have a home, floods are controlled, and the creek is an asset to all the neighbourhoods it flows through.”
About the Bowker Creek Initiative
The Bowker Creek Initiative is a collaborative effort between people, organizations and governments who envision the creek as a community amenity and a healthy, life-sustaining environment for native vegetation and wildlife.