Call to Action: Bowker Creek Forum advances a ‘regional team approach’ in the Georgia Basin
Note to Readers:
This article is the fifth and last in a series of stories that serve as a resource for the Bowker Creek Forum held on February 23, 2010. The article summarizes what was accomplished by the Forum, and foreshadows where implementation of a new culture for watershed restoration may lead.
The story presented below is an abridged version of an article that is 9 pages in length. To read the complete article, click on this link to download a PDF version of Call to Action: Bowker Creek Forum advances a ‘regional team approach’ in the Georgia Basin
Major breakthroughs happen when decision makers in government work with grass-roots visionaries in the community to create desired outcomes. This is the essence of the Bowker Creek story.
Established in 2004, the Bowker Creek Initiative is precedent-setting and of provincial significance. This unique multi-jurisdictional collaboration has produced the Bowker Creek Blueprint: A 100-Year Action Plan to Restore the Bowker Creek Watershed.
Design with Nature: Implementing a New Culture for Watershed Restoration and Management
“The Bowker Blueprint is impressive. The Bowker Creek Initiative is leading the way with their ‘design with nature’ strategy for watershed restoration,” states John Finnie, Chair of Convening for Action on Vancouver Island, known by the acronym CAVI.
“The CAVI vision is that we will build and/or rebuild our communities in a way that achieves water sustainability over time. The Bowker Blueprint provides us with a road map that shows us how to get there.”
“By drawing attention to the Bowker Blueprint, the CAVI team believes this will help us advance the regional team approach in other jurisdictions.”
Celebration of the Bowker Creek Blueprint
The Bowker Creek Forum was a celebration of the Bowker Creek Blueprint; and was a collaboration of the Bowker Creek Initiative and CAVI. Held at the University of Victoria, the Bowker Creek Forum attracted a diverse audience of 60 people from around the Georgia Basin.
To access and download copies of the 10 presentations that provide a record of the information shared at the Forum, click here.
To view a set of video clips that have been posted on YouTube, click here.
The Forum was Energizing
“What impressed me about the Bowker Creek Forum was the willingness of those in local government to elicit public buy-in. Without that, you cannot move forward,” observed Judy Williams, Co-Chair of the Fraser River Coalition and a Director of the Pacific Spirit Park Society (on the University Endowment Lands in Metro Vancouver).
“The Forum gives me hope for the future. It was refreshing; it was energizing. I was so thrilled to be part of the day. I felt the camaraderie; I felt an affinity with the people there.”
“I got a lot out of the Forum; I am so glad I attended. I got a sense of the similar problems we are facing up and down Vancouver Island and that CAVI is leading part of the change that is needed,” commented Jack Minard, Executive Director of the Comox Valley Land Trust.
“We all have come some distance towards a more sustainable approach and the ‘weaving’ that CAVI is doing is definitely helping us stay on track, realize where we are in comparison to other places and learn from each other.”
A rousing opening address by Eric Bonham set the tone for the day. He drew on a lifetime of experience, both as a Director of Engineering in the provincial government and as a community advocate, to establish a frame of reference for truly appreciating the significance of the Bowker Creek Blueprint as a landmark accomplishment.
Blueprint Development / Blueprint Actions
Over about a 2-hour period, Jody Watson (BCI Chair) weaved the story of Bowker Creek from the late 1800s through until the present. Her storytelling provided context for the ‘collective indifference’ that had characterized the urbanization of Bowker Creek for more than a century; and for the ‘design with nature’ ethic that is now driving watershed restoration.
Adriane Pollard and Anne Topp of the District of Saanich structured their mind-map in five parts and addressed implementation issues as follows:
– What Should Be Simple
– What Might Be Difficult
– What Are the Issues
– What Are the Opportunities
– Key Factors for Success
Steven Fifield (City of Victoria) followed with his story of the Trent Street Rain Gardens, the City’s first of its kind.
The Topsoil Primer Set
The team of Rémi Dubé (City of Surrey) and Susan Rutherford (Green Infrastructure Partnership) then unveiled the Topsoil Law & Policy and Technical Primer Set. These ‘how-to’ documents synthesize the pioneering experience of Surrey, the City of Courtenay and North Vancouver District.
Georgia Basin Initiatives
The Forum concluded with an interactive segment that ensured a high-energy finish. Moderated by Kim Stephens, Program Coordinator for the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, this segment was built around a series of cue slides that enabled a ‘guided conversation’.
The spotlight was on connecting the dots between five watershed-based initiatives in five regional districts. All five are keyed to integration of water and land planning.
A Community Perspective
“The moderated group discussion was such a valuable part of the gathering. It was very impressive how the ‘guided conversation’ drew people out to speak about their experience and expertise; to round out the purpose of the Forum and CAVI’s mandate,” stated Soren Henrich, a community representative on the Bowker Creek Initiative’s Outreach Subcommittee.
“The Forum was very successful. The presentations were varied and interesting. I met leaders, made good connections, and have a renewed purpose to work on community engagement.”
Implementing a New Culture
“The big learning from the Bowker Creek process is the process itself. We have a good model to work with,” stated Jody Watson. “I hope that in future we will get to a point where we don’t have to develop a specific plan for a watershed…. because we will have changed the culture and the thinking; and how we develop and how we engineer.”
Build the Vision, Create a Legacy
“When the Province released Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia in 2002, the Steering Committee also recognized that changing the local government culture will yield a more tangible return-on-investment over time than an ISMP (Integrated Stormwater Management Plan),” notes Kim Stephens, principal author of the Guidebook.
“We came to the same conclusion as the BCI team: start with a shared vision; draw a picture of what the community can look like; and create the legacy one property at a time. It is all about cumulative benefits. That is the essence of the Bowker Creek Blueprint.”