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Browne Creek Wetlands bolster park system

The Browne Creek Wetlands is the newest addition to Chilliwack's trail network. But the work's not over yet, proponents say.
Zoey Slater

There were more than birds singing the praise of the new Browne Creek Wetlands on Thursday. While robins and red-winged black birds voiced their approval, hundreds of school children from nearby Yarrow elementary giggled and squealed as they toured the trails that make up this newest addition to Chilliwack’s trail network.

That delight was shared by the many partners and volunteers who took part in the official opening.

Led by the Rotary Club of Chilliwack, that group includes the City of Chilliwack, the Fraser Valley Watersheds Coalition, the federal government and the Salmonid Enhancement Program.

Those partnerships have allowed organizers to build a park that is more than a nice place to walk, said Victor Froese, co-chair of the Rotary committee that spearheaded the club’s involvement. It has helped reclaim part of the Vedder River floodplain and return it to a productive salmon and wildlife producing habitat.

More than three years in the making, the area includes off-channel wetlands, native plant species and improved water flow. What looks natural has function, Froese said. The logs that traverse small creeks, for example, not only provide shelter for growing salmon, they slow bears who chase the fish up stream. Boulders placed in the creek bed ease the water’s flow.

The trail system, which includes the Kingfisher Trail, the Vedder River South Trail and Beaver Loop Trail, will soon be complemented by a series of interpretive signs.

Education is a key part of the trail, added Mike McAstocker, co-chair of the Rotary committee that contributed nearly $19,000 toward the project. Yarrow elementary will be incorporating salmon habitat management in its curriculum, said the former teacher. And Grade 4 students who release young fish into the waters in spring, will look forward to welcoming them back when they are in Grade 8.

The Browne Creek Wetlands is the latest addition to the trail network along the Vedder River. In addition to the main Rotary Vedder Trail (which draws an estimated 18,000 visitors each month), the Peach Creek Rotary trail was added in 2013.

But McAstocker said the work is not over yet. The dream is to link the trail system on the north side of the Vedder with the trails on the south, eventually forming a complete loop.

That dream might not be that far off. Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz told the Yarrow students assembled for the opening that the city hopes to one day build a bridge near the existing BC Rail crossing just downstream.

The Browne Creek Wetlands can be accessed via Browne Road, off Vedder Mountain Road; or via Bergman Road, off Lumsden.