BOWKER CREEK BLUEPRINT IS A BEACON OF INSPIRATION: “I believe there is some kind of consciousness change going on, and a lot of us are starting to recognize that we are part of an ecosystem wherever we live. Even if it is a wretched, degraded system…well, that is what we are working with. This work that you do is wherever you are,” stated Gerald Harris, a Director of the Friends of Bower Creek society

Note to Reader:

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.

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 Gerald Harris, a community leader and Director with the Friends of Bowker Creek Society.

Call for Action: “The Bowker Creek Valley”

“Whenever I talk to people, I use the term Bowker Creek Valley because a valley is a place where there is a stream. It is also a place where people live and there is an ecosystem,” states Gerald Harris, Chair of the Friends of Bowker CreekStreamkeepers Working Group. He is involved because working with others in the creek is his passion.

“It was great to see ‘valley’ used in rebranding the Shelbourne Corridor as the Shelbourne Valley. Credit goes to Anne Topp for that accomplishment. But calling it the Shelbourne Valley misses the point that Bowker Creek is in a pipe below the ground surface!”

“In my mind, an appropriate action as part of the 10-year review for the Blueprint implementation process would be to reimagine the Shellbourne Valley as the Bowker Creek Valley. I truly believe that renaming the catchment as the Bowker Valley is important to do.”

“So much has to do with what people see with their perception. We must create a mind-set, with many minds, such that people say themselves: I am living on the hillside in the Bowker Valley, and this is the ecosystem to which I belong. It is my home. That is the mind-set that will get us to where we are going with restoration of the Bowker creekshed.”

What it Means to Work in Bowker for Bowker

“When people fall in love with their local creek, it becomes a longer-term commitment. This happens naturally when people work together physically to do creek restoration.”

“The greatest benefit of the habitat assessment that we completed over the past year is the opportunity it created for a lot of Bowker valley residents to spend time together doing some work on Bowker Creek for Bowker Creek. As a result, there are people who now have a feeling for the creek that they likely did not have 18 months ago.”

“The five current Friends of Bowker Directors met in the creek years ago when we were doing rehabilitation projects. The recent assessment project has given the opportunity for another intake!”

Bringing Salmon Back to Bowker

“Derek Shrubsole, a science teacher at Oak Bay High School, is part of the working group leadership team. He is actively using the outdoor classroom on the banks of Bowker Creek for teaching; has an important role in facilitating cooperation among school, school district and community; and is an integral part of the intergenerational collaboration process.”

“My conversations with Derek about bringing salmon back to Bowker led the two of us to recognize that only chum salmon are suited to Bowker water quality in its present condition. But it was Ian Bruce of Peninsula Streams who took our thinking a step further when he suggested going beyond a passive habitat assessment. When we were on a walkabout, Ian posed this question which changed everything:

Why not plant chum eggs and make it a dynamic process where having the fish in the stream creates more public interest, commitment, and motivation for improving the stream?

“The possibility of restoring chum salmon has attracted a lot of volunteers, many of whom are young people. This is how we pass on the baton. It has to be.”

Inter-Generational Baton

“Within the streamkeepers working group, half the members are under age 40 and several are in their 20s. I am quite certain that these individuals will continue to be involved well into the future. Within a year or so, I will step away from being chair and hand-off to younger people to co-chair the working group. Our succession planning is happening naturally.”

To Learn More:

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 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.

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