A BEACON OF INSPIRATION: “Seeing that Bowker Blueprint map at the Creekside Concert Series event in 2020 was the moment that shifted my understanding that our city is overlaid upon watersheds. that was the moment when I asked what more can I do?” stated Councillor Jeremy Loveday after City of Victoria Council passed the game-changing motion that launched the second decade of the 100-Year Action Plan


On September 28, 2021, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC’s Waterbucket eNews featured the Bowker Creek Blueprint, a 100-year action plan to peel back the pavement, daylight an historical creek, and restore nature within the Victoria urban region on Vancouver Island. The intergenerational commitment by so many players is inspirational. 

Released on Sunday, September 26th 2021 in conjunction with BC Rivers Day celebrations on Vancouver Island, A Beacon of Inspiration: Bowker Creek Blueprint and 100-Year Action Plan is a short history of building bridges of understanding from the past to the present and future. It is a story of local government champions and community leaders who share a vision, embrace shared responsibility, and are bringing Bowker Creek back to life.

on the vision to restore a ribbon of blue and green the built environment in the Bowker creekshed in the Victoria region

“In a word, the Bowker Creek Blueprint and 100-Year Action Plan is a game-changer. Expressed another way, nobody anywhere has done what the Bowker Creek Urban Watershed Renewal Initiative (BCI) has done and continues to do. The Blueprint is in the second decade of implementation; and the idea of the intergenerational baton is relevant as a metaphor for the current process for passing on experience, knowledge, and wisdom,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

“The Blueprint and the intergenerational commitment by so many players to implement the 100-year action plan to daylight the creek and retrofit a riparian corridor is truly remarkable. It is also precedent setting. The process to operationalize the Blueprint is now self-fulfilling. Embedded in three Official Community Plans, the Blueprint cascades down to the DNA and departmental work plans within each municipality.”

“Why is the Bowker Creek Blueprint and 100-Year Action Plan a “beacon of inspiration”? It is the outcome of a unique multi-jurisdictional effort, and this alone is defining. More importantly, it is a story about people who really care and believe in the mission. Their efforts demonstrate why and how it takes hard work to transform the vision for Living Water Smart in British Columbia into actions on the ground.”

“The Partnership is excited to share the Bowker story with you, the reader, through our Watershed Case Profile Series. Without determined champions such as Jody Watson, Ian Graeme, Adriane Pollard, Soren Henrich et al, nothing gets started and nothing happens. Key words that capture the essence of the Bowker story are perseverance, dedication, and TIME in capitals.”

“Changes do not happen overnight. It is a journey and journeys take decades – which is why success is measured by the distance travelled, not the distance still to go. How do you tell the story of a journey in 600 words? In this edition of Waterbucket eNews, we have decided to let the words of the players speak for themselves through a set of “quotable quote” images.”

“One cannot make someone embrace shared responsibility. It is that intangible something that must come from within the individual. Based on the interviews synthesized in A Beacon of Inspiration, the motivation for those involved in the BCI is clear: it is the “Blueprint mission”. Continue scrolling and be inspired!”

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Context for the Busy Reader

Bowker Creek originates at the University of Victoria and flows for 8 km through three municipalities – Saanich, Victoria and Oak Bay – the Capital Region on the south end of Vancouver Island. The creekshed is completely urbanized. The impervious area coverage is 56%. Two-thirds of the creek is buried in pipes. Over 30,000 people reside in the surrounding creekshed.

Why are people so excited about Bowker? After all, it is either buried or degraded. The answer, according to District of Saanich environmental planner Adriane Pollard, is that the Victoria region has a dry climate and few streams. Where there is a stream that could support fish life and residents can see the  creek flowing through their neighbourhood, she says, they get excited about nature in the city.

Right People, Right Place, Right Time, Over Time

A Beacon of Inspiration is the 10th in the Partnership’s Watershed Blueprint Case Profile Series. Because there is no equal to the Bowker Creek Blueprint and the intergenerational 100-Year Action Plan, the intent is that this “story behind the story” will have lasting value as a legacy resource for the Bowker Creek Urban Watershed Renewal Initiative. The Partnership’s hope is that others will be inspired by the Bowker experience.

The Bowker Creek Blueprint and the intergenerational commitment by so many players to implement the 100-year action plan is remarkable and precedent-setting. Since 2008, the Partnership been an observer of the process and the journey. A thread that weaves through the Bowker storyline is the right people in the right place at the right time, over time.

Honour the Champions and Celebrate Shared Responsibility

Bowker Creek Champions: From left to right: Soren Henrich (Friends of Bowker Creek), Natalie Bandringa and Jody Watson of the Capital Regional, and Ian Graeme (founder, Friends of Bowker Creek). In April 2012, this occasion was a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the first Bowker Forum.

Along with Adriane Pollard of Saanich, the trio of Ian Graeme, Jody Watson and Soren Henrich represent continuity of involvement and steadfast leadership. They are catalysts in the process that is rippling through time: create the shared vision for Bowker Creek restoration; defy and beat the odds to influence decision-making in three communities; and inspire others to bring the vision to fruition through the 100-Year Action Plan

Why Relationships Matter Most

Jody Watson is widely recognized as the “the face of the BCI” because she served as BCI Chair for many years. Her tireless efforts in sharing the Bowker story in forums around British Columbia are a source of inspiration for others in local government. Jody’s core message is that bringing a degraded creek back to life is mission possible.

“Technical knowledge is not enough. You learn that technical competence alone is not going to get you there. That is what I want to pass on to people. If you have a technical problem, it is relationships that matter most. Strong relationships help make the BCI agile,” states Jody Watson.

“We need agility because we do not have the time and resources. At one level, all of us are too busy. At another level, and given the challenges posed by the issues of the day, we need to move on opportunities very quickly. Over a career, you do learn that it is all about understanding people. Technical knowledge is incidental sometimes.”

Game-changing action by City of Victoria provides momentum for Bowker Blueprint 2.0

In February 2021, the 12-clause motion moved by Councillor Loveday and passed by Victoria Council is the game-changer that launched the second decade of the 100-Year Action Plan. Not only did Councillors recommit the City of Victoria to implement the Blueprint, they also directed staff to report back on scope and resources needed to daylight certain reaches of the creek identified in the Daylighting Feasibility Study. In addition, they passed partner motions to direct staff to look for opportunities to restore or daylight other historic creeks in the City of Victoria.

“You never quite know what is going to create a moment for someone that will shift their understanding forever,” states Jeremy Loveday. “But we must do our best to make sure that we are presenting the opportunities for those moments to be created. I came to see celebration of the 10th anniversary as an opportunity for the City of Victoria to recommit to the Blueprint plus bring awareness of it to the forefront of people’s understanding of the city that they live in, and the difference that their actions can have on the watershed.”

“Because we know where stream daylighting overlaps with other City plans and policies, we can take the next step to look at what we could do on the ground and what it could cost. We are well-placed for grant applications or emerging opportunities for partnerships,” explains Brianne Cyzypha, who made the staff co-presentation that resonated with Council in February 2021.

The Bowker Story as told through Quotable Quotes

Bowker Blueprint branding image for “islands of nature” and a “ribbon of blue”

About the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC

Incorporation of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia as a not-for-profit society on November 19, 2010 was a milestone moment. Incorporation signified a bold leap forward. The Partnership evolved from a technical committee in the 1990s, to a “water roundtable” in the first decade of the 2000s, and then to a legal entity. The Partnership has its roots in government – local, provincial, federal.

The umbrella for Partnership initiatives and programs is the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia. In turn, the Action Plan is nested within Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan. Released in 2008, Living Water Smart was the provincial government’s call to action, and to this day transcends governments.

Conceptual Framework for Inter-Generational Collaboration

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.

Application of Experience, Knowledge and Wisdom

The Partnership believes that when each generation is receptive to accepting the inter-generational baton and embracing the wisdom that goes with it, the decisions of successive generations will benefit from and build upon the experience of those who went before them.

The Partnership leadership team brings experience, knowledge, and wisdom – a forceful combination to help collaborators reach their vision, mission, and goals for achieving water sustainability. When they are successful, the Partnership is successful.

The Time Continuum graphic (above) conceptualizes the way of thinking that underpins the inter-generational mission of the Partnership for Water Sustainability.  Influence choices. Capitalize on the REACHABLE and TEACHABLE MOMENTS to influence choices.


TO LEARN MORE, VISIT: https://waterbucket.ca/about-us/

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