BOWKER CREEK BLUEPRINT IS A BEACON OF INSPIRATION: “We are taking a new direction. We are saying that we can improve the health of Bowker. But there is still more pollution happening. We can see it happening. And so, we the Friends of Bowker Creek, are stepping it up,” stated Jessica Hartum, the Director who is leading a grass-roots water quality monitoring program

Note to Reader:

The Bowker Creek Blueprint is 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 by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in conjunction with BC Rivers Day in September 2021, 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.

In A Beacon of Inspiration, the Partnership tells the “story behind the story” to showcase the history and evolution of the Blueprint process over the past two decades. The storyline is structured in three parts. The first two cover the past two decades. The third part comprises interviews with current players who are collaborating to set a direction for the second decade of Bowker Blueprint implementation.

Presented below is the interview with Jessica Hartum, a community volunteer and Director of the Friends of Bowker Society.

Teach Science to the Community

Jessica Hartum is a self-described passionate volunteer and mature student who has applied her passion for the science of water quality monitoring to help bring Bowker Creek back to life.

“When we are down at the creek, everyone stops and talks to us. Everybody! The community loves Bowker Creek and wants to see something so much better. It is hard not to be touched,” says Jessica.

In the grand scheme of creeks, Bowker Creek has been so degraded. Yet that love for Bowker comes through? “Absolutely,” exclaims Jessica, “one of the most stunning things for me was the response to my post on Facebook asking for donation of a backpack so that we could put all of our water quality gear in it.”

“Within one day, there were 75 replies from Oak Bay residents saying: I want to get involved; how do I get involved; how do I donate money; we want to see success; we love to see you working in the creek. It was pretty phenomenal.”

Action through Community Involvement

“It is really neat getting out there with the volunteers. I was trained to teach communities to do water quality testing. It is great to have government do studies and tell us what the problem with the water is. But nothing will happen until and unless you can get the community behind you.”

“It is about teaching people in the local community. Once they understand the science, their eyes light up. They want to be there, they want to learn, they want to do what is needed. Who better to pass on the intergenerational batons than the people who are right there!”

Passion for Water Quality Explained

“I am a water quality person and I believe that it is a steppingstone to everything else,” continues Jessica Moorhead. “Water quality is close to my heart. But I understand where we are in this world and that nobody is buying in for water quality alone.”

“In my view, water quality is a lot bigger than just the salmon. But I do recognize that water quality and fish habitat are a package. Neither one is complete without the other one. We have to do both together, and that is what Brandon Williamson and I do. We work closely. We collaborate to support each other’s program!”

“When I show community volunteers the insects that are in the water and what they mean, everyone has an Ah-Ha Moment. The next time they see me, they will tell me whatever it is that they have seen in the water. I believe that I am infecting them with my passion! That is what I do.”

Salmon as a Motivator for Action

“It was Gerald Harris who opened my eyes to using the salmon as the way to get people excited. He is 100% right. And I love Derek Shrubsole’s perspective about using the salmon to get the school generation to buy in and understand and believe. Those young kids are our future.”

“For me, however, it goes deeper because I see the water quality as the area that is super important yet has been forgotten about. Without good water quality, there will be no salmon. So, it is important that we get the younger generations excited and show them and teach them.”

Inter-Generational Collaboration

“Community volunteers that are coming forward are intergenerational. Within our teams of 3 or 4 people, I like to mix and match the different generations: some young, some old.”

“We have the full range from university students to semi-retired to fully retired. And from different walks of life and cultures and belief systems. They get down in the creek and roll up their sleeves. It is pretty fascinating.”

“I have never seen people come together like they have on this water quality monitoring project. Volunteers come from everywhere to get involved. I like to team the young with the old. They have different things to give. It works,” concludes Jessica Hartum.

To Learn More:

Bowker Creek originates at the University of Victoria on southern Vancouver Island and flows for 8 km through three municipalities – Saanich, Victoria and Oak Bay. The creekshed is completely urbanized. The impervious area coverage is 56%. Over 30,000 people reside in the surrounding creeks.

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.

To read the complete story, download a copy of A Beacon of Inspiration: Bowker Creek Blueprint and 100-Year Action Plan.