From June 1st to 12th, the Wetlands Education Program (WEP) team ventured to the Kootenays for the first Wetlandkeeper workshops of the summer. The focus of these workshops was to provide participants with a working knowledge of wetlands and to understand their undeniable value.
Our first stop on the trip was in Slocan, B.C. Situated at the southern tip of the Slocan River, participants began the workshop by practicing their classification skills at a rainy Upper Little Slocan Lake. As the clouds began to clear later in the day, the group was introduced to the potential of wetland restoration by Gregoire Lamoureux of Slocan River Streamkeepers at the Crooked Horn Farm Project. Completed in the summer of 2017, the Crooked Horn Farm Project features a shallow wetland habitat that now houses a diversity of wildlife including Western toad, Columbia spotted frog, Western painted turtles, brown bats, numerous birds as well as a variety of benthic invertebrates.
One of the main focal points of this workshop was the Slocan Mill site. Built in the 1960s, the mill sits on top of the historic Springer Creek wetlands. After providing employment to the residents of Slocan River Valley for over forty years, the mill closed in 2013. The 20-acre site was put up for sale until the village of Slocan purchased it 2020. The site remains undeveloped; however, the municipality is in the process of creating an official community plan for the space.
On the second day of the workshop, the group gathered at the mill site to discuss its potential and made suggestions as to what the municipal council could work towards in terms of wetland restoration. Many agreed the space should be shared as residents are already using the site as a recreational area and have expressed their desire for commercial development. Despite this, participants made sure to highlight that daylighting and restoring Springer Creek be at the forefront of the planning process.
During the conversation, reference was made to the Kus-Kus-Sum project in Courtenay, B.C. Located in the Comox Valley, Kus-Kus-Sum is the site of an 8.3-acre retired mill that sits at the mouth of an ecologically important estuary. Over the last five years, Project Watershed, the K’ómoks First Nation, and the City of Courtenay have begun the massive undertaking of restoring the area to create fish and wildlife habitat, provide recreational and educational opportunities, mitigate climate change and flooding, and put Indigenous reconciliation into action. The WEP team had the pleasure of visiting the site during the 2021 Wetlands Institute where we learned that this project showed the potential for other large-scale restoration projects like that of the Slocan mill site.
After a quick lunch, participants were given the opportunity to get more hands-on experience with restoration planning by performing a mock design of a wetland at the nearby Ravine Creek Farm. This portion of the workshop was led in part by local Alys Ford who has expressed her desire to return part of the farm she operates to a wetland.
As the workshop wound down to a close, participants walked away with a sound knowledge of wetlands and a brief introduction into the restoration process.