BOWKER CREEK BLUEPRINT IS A BEACON OF INSPIRATION: 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.


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.

Shared Responsibility Aligns Community Champions and Local Government Staff

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,” states Kim Stephens, Partnership Executive Director and author of A Beacon of Inspiration.

“Beginning with the collaboration on the part of Ian Graeme (Friends of Bowker Creek) and Rob Miller (Capital Regional District) two decades ago, another foundational piece is the mutual support that community champions and local government provide each other. The BCI showcases ‘shared responsibility in action’.”

“One cannot make someone embrace shared responsibility. It is that intangible something that must come from within the individual. Based on the interviews summarized in Part C of Beacon of Inspiration, the motivation for those involved in the BCI is clear: it is the ‘Blueprint mission’.”

“Michael Lewis, a best-selling American author, provides a perspective which helps to explain why the Blueprint is a mission for Ian Graeme et al: ‘It is a ‘calling’. They do not need other motivations when what they do is the right thing to do. We need to honour these people. We would tease more out of the population if we created a culture of recognition around what it means to embrace shared responsibility’.”

To Learn More:

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

Responsibility Matrix

The Province of British Columbia has put in place a policy framework that enables local governments to commit to doing business differently:

This is what we want our communities to look like in 50 years, and this is what we will do starting now to ensure it happens.

The relationship between the provincial and local levels of government in British Columbia has evolved differently than in other provinces. Historically, the Province has enabled local government by providing policy and legal tools. In general, the enabling approach means the onus is on local government to take the initiative because the Province recognizes that communities are in the best position to develop solutions which meet their own unique needs and local conditions.

In 2009, the Partnership collaborated with Susan Rutherford of West Coast Environmental Law to promote use of the Responsibility Matrix to encourage players with different perspectives to talk candidly with each other about green infrastructure or other sustainability goal implementation. In 2010, this included a presentation by Susan Rutherford at the Bowker Creek Forum co-organized by the Partnership and the Bowker Creek Initiative.

“The matrix is intended to get everyone thinking about the role that they can play; and get everyone talking to others about how they will all work together. It was an outcome of a forum hosted by the City of Surrey in 2009. The forum focus was on the implementation challenges of green infrastructure, and how to overcome them. We looked at law, policy, process and technical tools; and how people have most successfully brought those tools together to implement the objectives of green infrastructure,” stated Susan Rutherford.

To Learn More:

Read this article titled AT THE BOWKER CREEK FORUM: ‘We looked at all the players and all the different tools. To organize everything, we took an approach which we called the Shared Responsibility Matrix,” stated Susan Rutherford at the launch of the Topsoil Primer Set (February 2010)

And to learn more about the Responsibility Matrix, download a copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Shared Responsibility Underpins a Regional Team Approach to Creating Our Future. This is an updated version of a Backgrounder released by the Partnership in December 2009.