BOWKER CREEK BLUEPRINT IS A BEACON OF INSPIRATION: “You need layers of champions. You need a champion in the community. You need a champion in the municipality. You need a champion to keep everybody aware and moving forward,” stated Adriane Pollard, Manager of Environmental Services with the District of Saanich
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 Adriane Pollard, Manager of Environmental Services with the District of Saanich. She is a founding member of the Bowker Creek Initiative (BCI) Steering Committee.
How Bowker Creek Emerged as an Inter-Municipal Priority
Adriane Pollard has been involved with the Bowker Creek Blueprint since the beginning. This history provides her with the full picture of the journey over two decades and counting. She is the longest serving municipal representative on the BCI Steering Committee. She has observed, and continues to observe, what the intergenerational baton looks like in practice – and through both her inter and intra-municipal lenses.
When asked ’Why do people get so excited about Bowker when two-thirds of the creek is enclosed in a pipe?’, Adriane provides this context:
“The Capital Region has a dry environment, and we have few streams. And so, when you have a stream that could support fish life and you can see the creek flowing through the neighbourhood, people get excited about nature in the city.”
“Some two decades ago, the CRD developed evaluation criteria for deciding where to expend their energies on inter-municipal watersheds. At the top of the list is the criterion that the community has already rallied and is ready for action. In other words, there is energy and support, because this is what primes the way forward for success. In the case of Bowker, the efforts of Ian Graeme and the Friends of Bowker Creek Society had raised community and political awareness to the level necessary to move Bowker to the head of the line.”
There is no equal, anywhere, to the Bowker Blueprint:
“When Saanich was one of eight cities involved in the European Cities Exchange, I was asked to make a presentation to the delegation from Almada, a small municipality in Portugal. Because their interest was environmental, I explained the Bowker Blueprint. They were so excited that they invited me to go to Portugal to tell the Bowker story to an inter-departmental group. Our experience inspired them to want to daylight a creek through their town as part of their proposed green infrastructure network.”
Role of the Municipal Champion as the Interpreter
Adriane Pollard’s tenure at Saanich began in 1998. She is one of a handful of remaining long-term employees; and the only person in the planning, engineering and environmental departments who has been part of the Bowker journey from Day One.
“With the turnover in municipal staff, I have become the municipal champion for Bowker Creek,” she continues. “I remind colleagues of the municipal policies and that the Blueprint is a Council-endorsed document. Every time I review a development for environmental impacts, we identify that it is in the Bowker watershed, and we state what the Blueprint says about the subject reach. Also, whenever the municipality undertakes capital and maintenance projects, we make sure to refer to the Blueprint and state what it says.”
“The good thing about this role is that the more that I do it, the more other people in the organization get the picture and say ’this is the document that we are going to use for this and that purpose’. And when it comes to interpreting the document, other staff come to me.”
Shelbourne Valley Action Plan:
“Our community planner also had to dive deep into the Blueprint for the Shelbourne Valley Action Plan. As a result, all the relevant policies from the Blueprint are in the Action Plan. That helps translate the Blueprint into what a potential developer needs to know – where they can develop and what the expectations are for rainwater management, tree canopy coverage, and especially stream daylighting.”
Role of the BCI Steering Committee as the Interpreter
“There is a role of the committee as well as ‘the interpreter’. When one of the partners at the table retires or changes jobs, then the committee draws in their replacement. The new person gets to see all the people around the table, that the Blueprint is endorsed by their municipality, and here is how we use it. This keeps it alive. At one point, we had a big turnover in municipal staff, and we had to bring the new people up to speed very quickly. Otherwise, they may not have known.”
Knock Down Barriers
“You need layers of champions. You need a champion in the community. You need a champion in the municipality. You need a champion to keep everybody aware and moving forward – and that is the role of the CRD Watershed Coordinator,” says Adriane Pollard.
“It is easy to hide behind your bylaws and manuals of practice and say that this is the way it has to be. It is not until you start working with people in the other disciplines that you realize well, we can all have wins here. A little bit of tweaking and we can all have wins.”
“Work. See the barrier. Knock it down. As long as people continue doing that…the 2003 Watershed Management Plan, the 2010 Blueprint, the 2020 Daylighting Feasibility Study and so on will be kept alive that way. Maybe there will be another limitation that comes up. Maybe it is money. Maybe it is a lack of coordination between municipalities. But that is how you get recharged to work, see the barrier, and knock it down.”
Stream Daylighting is the Latest Game-Changer
“In terms of knocking down barriers, you really just have to look at what is the barrier and ask What is holding us back and how do we address it? Be very focused and break the mold if you need to. Because that is what we did with the Blueprint, and that is what we have now done with the Daylighting Feasibility Study.”
“Stream daylighting is another game-changer. What it does is that it says here is where the stream is going to go, and everything revolves around that – building setbacks and heights, the greenways, and the pipes under the road. Everything now revolves around the creek rather than the other way around.”
“The intergenerational baton is being accepted. I believe the Daylighting Feasibility Study is the Bowker Blueprint for this next generation of municipal employees and community people. It is a ground-breaking document. It is meaningful. It causes us to focus and act. It gives us the knowledge to go forward.”
“At the time, the Blueprint felt like that. After ten years, we realize this is great, but it has its limitations. Now that we have the Daylighting Feasibility Study, that limitation has been erased. Now we have to catch up on that and start implementing.”
From Coaxing to Doing
“In 2009, things were stagnating, and we needed to find a way to go forward. Again, 10 years after the Blueprint was completed, things were stagnating. How would we go forward? We did the Daylighting Feasibility Study! Knock those barriers down. As a result of the feasibility process, there is a lot more confidence and self-assurance within the steering committee. And now we are moving from the coaxing phase into the doing phase.”
Nature in the City
Adriane Pollard exudes passion for Bowker Creek and what it could be. Bringing Bowker back to life is an essential part of her mission as a professional biologist and environmental planner. What is the source of her passion?
Creeks Need Riparian Areas
“I am an army brat and lived in military bases in different parts of Canada. It is interesting to reflect on how military bases have become fortresses of biodiversity. The military owns large swaths of land. Because no one is allowed onto the land, it remains in a natural state. This context has influenced my awareness and my thinking,” explains Adriane Pollard.
“I began my professional career doing wetlands work in Ontario before joining the District of Saanich in 1998. With my wetlands background, this meant that I recognized how confined urban creeks are, especially Bowker. It only has remnant riparian pockets.”
“Creeks need to have some wetlands and riparian areas. What a huge difference that would make for Bowker Creek and for habitat and for people’s enjoyment and connection with nature.”
An Opportunity and a Vision for Ecosystem Restoration
“Several years ago, the Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team held its annual conference at the Cedar Hills Golf Course which has a major tributary of Bowker Creek. We were doing field trips and I volunteered to lead one on the Bowker tributary because it connects to Garry Oak ecosystems.”
“There are some biologists that get very excited when you have an aquatic ecosystem interfacing with a Garry Oak ecosystem because they are not very common, and sometimes you get unusual species. Hardly anyone gets to see the stream through the golf course. When we got permission to walk the tributary, it was amazing to see the creek running through rocks beside Garry Oak trees.”
“The tributary through the Cedar Hills Golf Course has remnants of both the Bowker Creek and Garry Oak ecosystems together. It is a unique experience to see these two together. In the future, I hope that might be a focus for a different type of restoration where it is not all about the creek and planting the usual riparian vegetation. It would be about restoring the Garry Oak ecosystem and restoring the interface that it had with the creek, and which is not dense vegetation,” concludes Adriane Pollard.
To Learn More:
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.
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.