The inspiration for this column came from a conversation with Joanna Ross, publisher of this paper. She said, “Ralph, you should go down to the Mac Laing Park and see the work they are doing to improve the lower channel of Brooklyn Creek.”
It was a great suggestion and fit right in with what I wanted to write about for tomorrow night’s Pacific Salmon Foundation dinner at the Filberg Centre in Courtenay.
I parked my truck at the entrance to the park and spent a half hour walking and listening to the muted gurgle of low water in Brooklyn Creek. The current low water (due to a long dry spell) is concerning when you speculate about problems for returning salmon in October that rely on the fall rains to enter the stream and replenish their species.
Regardless of the challenges of the coming spawning season, this quiet little gem of a park casts a spell on all who walk its secluded, winding, forested paths embroidered by shy woodland plants.
As I came out into the open area of the old fruit farm and nut orchard I spotted the work that inspired this column. The boys in the picture are standing in the newly created spawning and rearing channel that is a work in progress nurtured by a reliable source of ground water that runs into the lower channel of Brooklyn Creek.
The design layout and current work of the channel was done by Rupert Wong and his environmental consulting company. Funding was provided jointly by the Pacific Salmon Foundation (40 per cent) and the Town of Comox Parks Department (60 per cent).
The channel is about 140 metres long and contains spawning gravel and, equally important, stillwater pools protected with submerged logs referred to as woody debris.
With a constant supply of ground water throughout the year, it will provide a place for coho salmon to spawn. And after the little salmon emerge from the gravel nursery they can live and grow for a year in the small, deeper pools of the channel before they smolt and go out to sea for two more years.
Think of it as a maternity ward and elementary school all wrapped into one small channel for little coho from Brooklyn Creek.
There is still much work to be done on the banks of the channel by way of planting 500 channel-friendly trees and shrubs. If you would like to get involved with this vital work, give Dave Davies a call at our local Department of Fisheries and Oceans office in Comox.
In the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) Keynote Species publication celebrating 25 years of bringing salmon back stream by stream, PSF president and CEO Dr. Brian Riddell wrote a sobering essay on the challenges of the next 25 years.
The title of his story was Everything is One and is based on the First Nations belief that everything is one. As Riddell noted this is such a simple expression of “ecosystem-based management” we use in modern science.
In looking up a suitable definition for keystone species I settled on the concept that our salmon are important keystones in the arches of life that depend on the streams, lakes, rivers, estuaries and marine waters of the Strait of Georgia and beyond.
For the past 25 years over 35,000 volunteers have spent huge amounts of energy and money to rebuild and assure a future for our precious seven races of Pacific salmon in hundreds of enhancement projects. The genetically defined Pacific salmon species are as follows: pink, chinook, sockeye, coho, chum, steelhead trout and cutthroat trout.
Riddell reflected that the past 25 years have had many successes and challenges – and the next 25 years will have the added challenges of accelerating climate change. But with increased knowledge and scientific advancement in salmonid enhancement we have a future for this magnificent keystone species.
This weekend the Pacific Salmon Foundation is holding its Comox Valley Gala Dinner, Dance and Auction on Saturday, Sept. 22. The last word I had is that it is sold out, but there may be some cancellations. If you are interested phone Judy Ackinclose at 250-335-0010. Tickets are $60.
Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.