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Collaborating for climate resiliency

The Glen Urquhart Creek rehabilitation in Courtenay is one of many projects Project Watershed has recently supported. Laura Stewart photo

Comox Valley environmental organizations are building hope and engaging volunteers in a community effort to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Comox Valley Project Watershed and the Cumberland Community Forest Society received grants this year from the Comox Valley Community Foundation as part of an Environment, Conservation and Climate Community Table. Together, the participants consensus-directed $80,000 to elevate the efforts of nine different environment-focused community service organizations in the Comox Valley.

Both organizations operate with knowledge, passion and hope that connects their work.


The Forest in the Village is part of the Cumberland Community Forest Society’s efforts to build community climate resilience with a focus on urban forests and biodiversity.

The approach is about learning, direct action, collaboration and celebration.

In the past year, they have facilitated workshops and walks with a focus on urban biodiversity, organized after-school programs and planted 125 ecologically important trees in partnership with the Village of Cumberland, whose Urban Tree Strategy aims to increase the forest canopy by 30 per cent in the Village by 2030.

The fall tree planting, along with B.C.’s intense wildfire season last summer, created new opportunities for community conversations around urban wildland interface zones, Fire Smart landscaping and the importance of the urban forest canopy to biodiversity and resilience in the face of climate change.

The programs represent an evolution of the Forest Society’s efforts in the past several years, from solely purchasing and saving forest land, to stewardship and community climate resilience. This is particularly true at the Perseverance Creek Watershed, which flows into the Comox Valley drinking water supply at Comox Lake.

“It’s not only about setting aside forest land anymore,” Cursons said. “It’s caretaking, restoring and healing the landscape that has been damaged by industrial logging and mining over time. When we’re restoring creeks or wetlands or protecting species at risk, it’s to ensure those entities are more resilient in the face of climate change, and the Forest in the Village project is a part of that. It’s about building community climate resilience, this time, inside the Village.”

And just as the trees in Cursons’ backyard are connected biologically and ecologically to our adjacent forests, every creek and stream is a part of the larger watershed that support species across the Valley.


That’s where the Project Watershed’s Community Water Monitoring Initiative comes in.

Starting this summer, Project Watershed will connect streamkeeper groups to better understand the health of the region’s streams and watersheds.

“It will also inform any measures we do to help support improvements in health. If we’re seeing really warm creek temperatures, really low dissolved oxygen, or really high turbidity, there are measures we can take from a restoration perspective to potentially slow down or improve some of those changes in the long term,” said Caitlin Pierzchalski, Project Watershed’s executive director.

The Community Water Monitoring Initiative kicks off this year with potential volunteers from the Millard Piercy Watershed Stewards, the Beaufort Watershed Stewards, the Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society, and the Cumberland Community Forest Society as well as the Little River and Glen Urquhart Creek neighbourhoods.

With enough equipment and volunteers, a cohesive picture of the health of the region’s watersheds will be uploaded to a public database, available to industry, government, volunteers and the community.

The idea, Pierzchalski said, is a long-standing goal of the Comox Valley Conservation Partnership, co-ordinated through the Comox Valley Land Trust, with participation from the K’ómoks Guardian Watchmen.

But it wasn’t until funding came available, through the Comox Valley Community Foundation, that the idea began to feel like a reality.

“The fact that we’re going to be able to have access to funding and actually start moving forward, is really exciting,” Pierzchalski said. “When I see these projects move forward, it helps stave off the apathy and makes me see the real possibilities here.”

Learn more about the Comox Valley Foundation, visit

READ MORE: Community Foundation announces grant recipients