The Lost Fen: Urban Community Rallies Over Remnant Duck Pond

It has long been an interest of mine as a wetland steward to participate in the project of an urban wetland. While the city isn’t the most important space for wildlife habitat, it does provide many great learning opportunities for a very broad audience. On March 15th, I had the opportunity to sit in on a visioning meeting for such a project: that of the Lost Creek Fen in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood of Vancouver.

Local wetland enthusiast and concerned citizen, Jason Morden, has taken a great interest in a historical remnant of Vancouver’s Brewery Creek and is now pushing to turn this small duck pond and its outlying lot into an exciting restoration project. His initiative has lead to the temporary halt of development on this lot by a “numbered” company whose aim was likely to turn the space into a parking lot. By physically blocking large trucks, contacting local officials and making a public call to community members, he is off to a promising start in his campaign to preserve and exalt the tiny pond that was once connected to a grand estuary and salmon bearing stream.

Neil Fletcher (BCWF Wetlands Education Program Coordinator), has been in discussion with Jason over potential options for this site, and was invited to speak on the value of urban wetlands as an educational tool at this first community meeting. His main point was that the project might bring great opportunities for East Vancouverites to learn about the importance of wetlands to a wide range of wildlife, especially in light of what he called a common “nature deficit”. While the site no longer has any real connectivity to watercourses or green spaces, it would provide a stop-over for some waterfowl and urban wildlife (ducks, several song birds and coyotes have been witnessed at the degraded space already). Participants in the Lost Creek Fen Project may take an interest in this year’s Sea-to-Sky Wetland Institute, which gives community members the tools needed to tackle wetland restoration. Related work during the Institute would be the construction of a liner wetland along the old Squamish Highway. Another relevant upcoming workshop is the rapidly filling Wetlandkeepers course in Mission. Here, community members are concerned about the proposed development of a shopping mall on the site of two ravines upstream of a wetland that supports Salmon, Western Toad and at least one endangered species.

At the meeting another guest speaker, local historian Bruce McDonald, spoke to the historical importance of the Lost Creek Fen. He brought along an old map marking the course of Brewery Creek and the early development of Mount Pleasant. This last remaining segment of Brewery Creek has been imposed upon since the initial development of the area where it was flanked by two slaughterhouses, cut off from the larger estuary and at least two tributaries that at one point ran about 60 feet deep. The site is now situated in an industrial and rapidly gentrifying part of the city, adjacent to satellite campuses of BCIT, UBC and SFU. Having worked with the historical society and the city to produce signage for the Mount Pleasant area, Bruce McDonald spends a great deal of time educating neighbourhood residents and Vancouverites on how the land has been changed in the evolution of the city. He has recently laboured for “10,000 hours” on a history of the city (click here for information on his book). Bruce’s knowledge on partnering with the municipality to conserve pieces of this history is valuable to the project and may play an important role in protecting the lot.

The meeting place for this event was graciously donated by the Native Education College, and community members came together enthusiastically under the large timbers with donated coffee, bannock and salmon pate (supplied by local Salishan Catering & Kranky Cafe). There was no shortage of interest and support for historic and environmental preservation in East Vancouver: this energy was palpable. On the other hand, there are many challenges to be surmounted in such a grand project. Jason noted that the cost of real estate in the area of the Lost Creek Fen is particularly high, and that a private landowner may be hard to sell such an idea to. A variety of options on how to approach this scenario were tossed about, and it appears that designating the lot as a park may be a suitable option. What interested many of the meeting’s attendees was the fact that this land had been protected since False Creek’s estuary was infilled in the early 1900s. It is not clear on how a landowner was successful in having it rezoned. This situation, unfortunately, is all too common. Media attention, and the productive and positive action of citizens is the only real way to combat the destruction of sites such as this.

We look forward to working with Jason on this urban educational wetland further and are pleased to see so much support for wetlands in our own neighbourhood. If you are interested in participating in this new project look it up on Facebook (search the “Lost Creek Fen“)

Comments
3 Responses to “The Lost Fen: Urban Community Rallies Over Remnant Duck Pond”
  1. Diane James says:

    Great great project. I just hope that enough decision makers understand the need to save what little is left. Best to Jason Morden and other participants.

  2. Bruce Coates says:

    Interesting article, but frustrating that the actual location is never specifically identified!

    • The remnant of Brewery Creek described in the article is a tiny pond located on the north side of 1st Avenue between Scotia and Prince Edward Streets (for further information, please see the link to the Lost Creek Fen facebook page).

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