CONVENING FOR ACTION IN THE NANAIMO REGION: “The stewardship groups comprising the Nanaimo Watershed Health Community of Practice have set out to build relationships with City Council and staff in a collegial and collaborative way. The relationships will grow as we build a culture of stewardship,” states Paul Chapman, NALT Executive Director

Note to Reader:

Galvanized by what they learned during the Nanaimo 2018: 1st Annual Vancouver Island Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate Symposium, a diverse group of stewardship groups took their first coordinated action before leaving the symposium. They formed a ‘creekshed coalition’, united by water, to put symposium words into actions. To give a voice to local water stewardship in the Nanaimo region, the coalition coalesced under the banner of Nanaimo Watershed Health Community of Practice (NWHCoP)

Eighteen months later, in October 2019, the group took the Mayor and members of Council on a creekshed walkabout so that they would see firsthand the nature of the issues of concern. The story below tells the story of this remarkable outcome and what it portends for the future.

City of Nanaimo members of Council, staff, and stewardship sector representatives. Mayor Leonard Krog is 2nd from right in bottom row (photo credit: David Mackenzie)

Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate

The Vancouver Island Symposia Series highlights the power of collaboration between local governments, elected leaders and the local stewardship and conservation groups. This collaboration is essential to mobilize and respond effectively to the impacts of climate change and to reconnect the built and natural environments that surround us.

The series is a building blocks process. Each event builds on the last and points the way to the next. The symposium format provides a neutral forum to ‘convene for action’ to improve where we live.

The series is guided by this two-track philosophy: provide a boost to the local co-hosts while advancing inter-regional outcomes. The first symposium, held in Nanaimo in April 2018, elevated the profile of the Nanaimo & Area Land Trust (NALT) and led directly to formation of the Nanaimo Watershed Health Community of Practice.

What is in a Name?

“As an outcome flowing from the Nanaimo 2018 Symposium, we set out to do the hard work to become another collaboration success story,” states Paul Chapman, NALT Executive Director. “The time was right – a civic election was on the horizon (in October 2018), and the energy of the symposium was sparking ideas. We gathered as a group of like-minded and unlike-minded, and began to plan.

“Branding is very important. Early on, we spent some time coming up with a name for our initiative. We tried many combinations of water stewardship buzzwords. We soon settled on Nanaimo Creekshed Coalition. We thought about it a bit more and decided that coalition might not be quite the right word for what we wanted to be. And so, we came up with the Nanaimo Watershed Health Community of Practice. This gave a voice to local water stewardship in Nanaimo.

“The initial impetus came from the Departure Creek, Walley Creek and Millstone River Streamkeeprs, the Nanaimo & Area Land Trust (NALT) and the Five-Acre Farm. In the absence of an advisory committee on the environment, promotion of the work of stewardship sector was of the high importance.”

To Learn More:

Click below watch the YouTube video of Paul Chapman telling the story at Parksville 2019. His theme was: Nanaimo Watershed Health Community of Practice: The Hard Work of Hope.

A Short History

“The initiative began with an information campaign and questions posed to all prospective candidates for Nanaimo City Council during the 2018 civic elections,” continues Paul Chapman.

“After the election, follow-up information was shared with the with the successful candidates for Mayor and council. Whenever a riparian setback variance was requested by developers, NALT would appear before council to speak to the importance of healthy functioning watersheds.

“On October 25th, Mayor Leonard Krog and Councillors Don Bonner and Ben Geselbracht, as well as City of Nanaimo staff members, joined the NWHCoP on a tour of local creeksheds. NALT organized the day and threaded the visits together.

Creekshed Walkabout with Nanaimo City Council

“The Tour began on a farm along the Millstone River with a presentation by Jen Cody (Foodshare Nanaimo) and Craig Evans (Growing Opportunities) on food system resilience and environmental farm plans.

“Next the tour visited a site on the Millstone downstream of Brannen Lake, where Bernie Heinrichs and the Island Water Fly Fishers have undertaken an  innovative bank stabilization project.

“From these rural settings the tour moved to urban streams. On Walley Creek folks learned of the work of stewards and the challenges faced due to dewatering for an upstream construction project and the extreme flows in the creek during storm events.

“The tour concluded at Departure Creek where the Streamkeepers outlined the history of stewardship on the creek and some of the recent successes. Through a few setbacks, more triumphs, community partnerships and a considerable amount of dedication and hard work Departure Creek is becoming an urban stream stewardship success story.”

Making Connections; Building Relationships

“At the Nanaimo 2018 Symposium, I was inspired by ZoAnn Morten’s co-keynote presentation,” recalls Paul Chapman. “ZoAnn is the  Executive Director of the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation. She spoke about the buy-in of West Vancouver District Council to the point where Council members had taken the Streamkeepers workshop and were part of the promotion of stewardship of local creeksheds.

“The Nanaimo Watershed Health Community of Practice has set out to build relationships with City Council and staff in a collegial and collaborative way. With our efforts to date, the process has begun. The connections have been made –  between stewards, decision-makers and staff; and with the creeks themselves. The relationships will grow as we build a culture of stewardship.”

Now What?

“Watersheds and aquifers don’t align with regional district boundaries; to achieve effective water stewardship we need to work across political boundaries and jurisdictions. It will take a broad-based effort to sustain restorative policies and actions,” states Paul Chapman.

“Over the last number of years NALT has been part of a growing community of water conservation. With the participation of numerous community stewardship groups, the City of Nanaimo and the Regional District of Nanaimo, NALT has seen concerns, understanding  and actions related to restoring watersheds and water balance become a priority in our region.

“Through the lessons learned and interaction at the various water symposiums, we have expanded the tools of restoration and expert contacts available to enhance our stewardship efforts.

“The saying from the hiking community is: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. The challenges of urban and rural expansion, multiplied by the instability of climate change mean we are in this for the long-haul and we are all in this together. A community of conservation is the surest way to sustain the effort needed.”

Vancouver Island Symposia Series

Paul Chapman is the Chair, Vancouver Island Symposia Series: Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate.

Nanaimo 2018 introduced a vision for ‘restorative land development’ that would re-establish creekshed function. And it energized the audience with this challenge: How will communities ‘get it right’ through collaboration as land develops and redevelops?

Parksville 2019:

Building on the energy that was released in Nanaimo, the dot-connecting theme for the 3-day Parksville program was:  Restorative land development would result in sustainable stream restoration.

Parksville 2019 celebrated local government initiatives on Vancouver Island that are ‘getting it right’ over time.  They are on a pathway to reconnect hydrology and ecology. Achieving this outcome depends on collaboration, commitment, and the ‘hard work of hope’.  Follow the leaders!

Comox Valley 2020:

In April 2020, the third in the series will further open eyes and minds as to ‘what can be’ – because the Comox Valley has emerged as an incubator region for provincially significant precedents.

Collaboration, across sectors and among rightsholders and stakeholders, is essential in order for communities to: mobilize and respond effectively to the present climate emergency; reconnect hydrology and ecology; and demonstrate that restorative land development is attainable.