In 2010, students at K.L.O. Middle School in Kelowna found nesting painted turtles in their long jump sand box. Michelle, (science teacher, school’s Eco Club leader, and past participant of the Wetlands Institute in Kamloops 2010) recognized the importance to protect and enhance this habitat as Painted Turtles are blue listed endangered in the interior. Wetlands and streams are also important to restore to attract wildlife and improve water quality in the Okanagan Basin watershed.
In the 1970’s, the creek was confined by culverts and capped with paving stones on the school’s property. Until now, one could easily mistake Fascieux Creek for a sidewalk. This creek is being daylighted, by removing the culverts and returning it to a more natural state. There has been a lot of fundraising and community support for this project that continues to build momentum. A green team was formed over 5 years ago that involved parents, teachers, and students.
After paying a visit, we are excited to report that phase 1 (the daylighting the first 50m) is in full force! It was amazing to be there and watch the excavator remove the culverts and demolish an old bridge within our short visit. After seeing the sludge from inside the pipes, it’s hard to believe some species like the Painted Turtle can survive. One teacher even recalls talk of a “mud ladened” muskrat living under the bridge. Before our visit, students helped salvage 240 redside shiner, 43 suckers, 2 prickly sculpin, and 3 northern pikeminnow from the culverts before they were removed.
Project consultants from Golder Associates and the schools green advisory committee were excited to show us the plans, which include planting cattail and other native wetland species and meandering the creek by placing large woody debris to form pools and building habitat islands. Several key phone calls enabled the project team to grind up and recycle the old concrete tiles and culverts right in town. Along with daylighting the creek, the school is very appreciative for the generous donation of a new bridge from the Kelowna-Okanagan Mission Lions Club. The school also aims to build a berm to stop stray soccer balls, install cedar split rails to delineate the natural riparian area, and build an outdoor classroom next to the new side channel wetland. With additional funding, the school hopes to begin phase 2, which includes daylighting another 133m on the rest of the school property.
This is a great example of student discovery turned into action with support from the community. Teachers are “excited for Fascieux Creek to function as a wetland and be a leading restoration success story”. The BCWF looks forward to following this story and assisting where possible.
Supporters for this project include: Environment Canada, BCWF, Robin Annschild, Central Okanagan Foundation, Central Okanagan Foundation for Youth, Central Okanagan Naturalists’ Club, City of Kelowna, FortisBC, Fritsch Land Surveying, Golder Associates, Golder Associates Green Committee, Central Okanagan School District #23, KLO Parent’s Advisory Committee, students of KLO School, KLO School Green Committee, Okanagan Basin Water Board, Kelowna-Okanagan Mission Lions Club, TD Friends of the Environment, Telus BC, The Hamber Foundation, and Vancouver Foundation.