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‘Vedder River Greenway’ just the beginning?

Salmon spawning habitat along the ‘Vedder River Greenway.’  - Natashia Cox
Salmon spawning habitat along the ‘Vedder River Greenway.’
— image credit: Natashia Cox

This past Tuesday March 18, Chilliwack city council received a presentation from the Fraser Valley Watersheds Coalition in conjunction with the City Parks and Recreation Department. They were speaking about the “Vedder River Greenway,” the riparian area along both shores of the Vedder River, and the work being done in this area to further its sustainability.

The Fraser Valley Watersheds Coalition (FVWC) is a registered charity and not-for-profit organization working to promote “Healthy Watersheds and Healthy Communities” across the Fraser Valley.  In Chilliwack, along the south side of the Vedder River, efforts to enhance and restore off-channel salmon habitat have been started and are planned for the next few years. This is in partnership with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Fraser Valley Regional District, Pacific Salmon Foundation and many other community supporters. The goal is to ensure that robust fisheries, which currently offer world-class fishing opportunities, are supported and strengthened for our future.

In addition to enhancing this habitat, it is recognized that this area is unique, and has the potential to be an incredible interactive place where wildlife, fish, recreation, leisure, sustainability and conservation values can unite. For this reason the FVWC is partnering with the City of Chilliwack and Chilliwack Rotary Clubs to develop interpretive trails along the waterways and preserve the restored habitat values. This effort will link up the existing trails on the North side of the river and create a comprehensive trails system within the Vedder River Greenway.

• To date: 35,570 square metres of rearing habitat within the Chilliwack River Valley has been enhanced/restored in 2013.

• Within weeks of the new channel being built, returning Coho salmon were seen spawning in the channels!

• $348,000 has been invested in habitat restoration activities in the Chilliwack River Valley in 2013 (from PSF, RFCPP, TD FEF)

• Thousands of in-kind contributions have been donated in 2013 (community at large, Chilliwack Rotary Clubs, WWF, Cultus Lake Parks Board, FVRD, DFO, City of Chilliwack, Parr Road Green Depot).

The City Parks and Recreation Department has recently released information about the usage of the Rotary trail along the Vedder River.  To me the numbers were exciting and staggering. The trail sees an average monthly use of 18,000 persons in the summer and an equally impressive volume of 15,000 persons per months in the winter. These numbers make this trail network the most used in the city and it would seem that the people of Chilliwack are speaking with their feet on this topic. We love our trails and we want more of them.

This project has put the spotlight on the secondary and tertiary waterways within our city, not only on the South side of town but also on the North side of the city as well. The FVWC had been conducting a study over the past five years on the Camp Slough and Hope Slough systems to assess the quality if these waterways. As many residents in that area would know, these sloughs have fallen a long way from their once pristine, fish bearing states, to their current status as muddy and sedimented waterways.

With the redevelopment of the downtown now front and center in the city’s focus as well as the recently launched Island 22 bike park,  a slough system similar to what is being done along the Vedder River would be the crown jewel for the North side of Chilliwack. I am imagining a waterway that bears spawning fish once again, creates a recreation corridor for canoeing, kayaking and rowing, and if I allow my imagination to become just a bit more audacious, I can envision trails here as well. The future for this town is looking bright.

Do you want to help? You are invited to get muddy and help us plant some trees. Saturday March 29 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Friday April 25 we will host community planting events. If you would like to join us in planting native trees and shrubs in this area, please email Rachel@fvwc.ca.  More info at www.FVWC.ca

I would like to thank the City of Chilliwack for their progressive steps with these projects. I would also like to thank Natashia Cox,  a project manager with the Fraser Valley Watersheds Coalition for co-authoring this article.

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children” – Chief Seattle

 

~ Sam Waddington is owner of Mt. Waddington’s Outdoors: “Equipping you for Rock, Water, Snow, Sand, Wind and anything else the Outdoors can throw at you!”

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