September 29, 2004

Green Space Letter Appears in Burnaby Now

A letter I wrote to the Burnaby Now regarding development near Byrne Creek appeared in the paper today. Here it is:

Dear Editor:

I am dismayed that an island of forest on Griffiths Ave. across from Edmonds Skytrain Station may be rezoned so it can be razed for a high-rise building and townhouses.

Over half of the site is covered with trees and brush that are home to dozens of species of animals, and it abuts salmon-bearing Byrne Creek.

My wife and I own property nearby, we run a small business, and we understand the profit motive and development. Yet I wonder why more green space needs to be destroyed in Burnaby when it has already been disappearing at a frightening pace since we moved to this beautiful city six years ago.

People marvel at Byrne Creek and the ravine park, and the hard-won revitalization and survival of this pocket of nature in an urban area has even attracted international attention. So why are we still allowing "development" to gnaw away at what little nature we have left?

The city has a plan to rehabilitate the downtrodden Edmonds area, and while I support it in general, some of the details are more detrimental than beneficial. Why not put large new developments along Edmonds and Kingsway? Both streets are lined with tired one- and two-storey buildings. Let's flatten them and put the towers and townhouses in areas that are already paved and relatively devoid of wildlife.

Why must we still cringe at the roaring of chainsaws in urban pocket forests? Why must we watch ever-increasing amounts of wasted rainwater pour off ever-expanding polluted parking lots and down storm drains to rip the hearts out of our local creeks?

Children of future generations should be able to experience the joy of exploring and playing in forests, ravines, and creeks just steps from their homes, instead of being relegated to lifeless expanses of concrete.

Paul Cipywnyk, Burnaby

Posted by Paul at 05:33 PM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2004

Soggy Night of 2004 Lights

The Byrne Creek Streamkeepers and Stream of Dreams Murals Society were the only community groups to show up at Burnaby's Night of 2004 Lights lantern festival Saturday. Rain throughout the day may have deterred others, but streamkeepers aren't afraid of water!

We arrived in the afternoon equiped with ladders, tarps and ropes, and threw up a ramshackle shelter beneath the trees below the Shadbolt Centre at Deer Lake. And good thing, too, as later it poured.

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We then set up our display of fish lanterns, along with a frog, turtle and a heron.

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Taking turns going for dinner, everyone was back by 7:00 when the lanterns were lit. We were happy we hung in there, as many appreciative spectators wandered by, and the great fire procession took place in grand style.

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Posted by Paul at 10:38 PM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2004

Cloudy Lake Louise

In the morning we headed back toward Lake Louise, the gem of the Rockies, under cloudy skies that quickly turned to rain as we proceeded back north.

Our luck held, however, as when we arrived the rain had fallen off, and it only spat at us now and then as we walked to the upper end of the the lake, returned, and hiked to the lookout at the southeast corner of the lake.

We made sandwiches and ate them at the lakeshore, while watching people from all sorts of ethnic groups taking souvenir photos. If one sat there for an afternoon, one could learn the old joke "move just a few steps back" in dozens of languages :-).

Lake Louise must be one of the most photographed places in the world, so I include no photo.

It rained again on the road back to Banff, and rather than hike Tunnel Mountain, we decided to wander around the town. The gardens around the admininstration building were still beautiful.

Posted by Paul at 08:58 PM | Comments (0)

September 13, 2004

South on the Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff is known as one of the most beautiful drives in the world.

Our next stop was at Athabaska Falls. We had lunch by the river, and succumbed to a mooching dog who was obviously a pro. He played the "I'm lost, can I gradually approach you and have something to eat" game perfectly, then disappeared after getting some cheese.

The falls were magnificent.

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There are several old channels to explore, and it's a must-see stop just a minute off of the highway.

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Continuing south, our next stop was the world-famous, 325-sq.-km Columbia Icefields. While shrinking at a dramatic and increasing rate, these icefields still feed rivers draining into three oceans: the Pacific, the Atlantic (via Hudson Bay) and the Arctic.

Tourists can climb a short way up the glacier, and the sound of melting water and creepy mini-crevasses makes it a tense experience. Several people have died in the last decade by wandering out of bounds, falling into a crevasse, and freezing to death before highly trained rescue teams can reach them.

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From the icefields we continued south toward Banff, and ran into some heavy rain, and heavy hearts as we contemplated having to motel rather than having the primeval joy of a campfire.

Yet miraculously the rain stopped a few kilometers out of town, and we settled into the Tunnel Mountain campground tired, but happy.

Popping back into town, we picked up pork chops, mushrooms, peppers, and rice, and created a royal feast on our Coleman propane stove. For starters we had corn on the cob roasted in tinfoil in the fire. Yum!

Posted by Paul at 07:56 PM | Comments (0)

To Mt. Edith Cavell

Up with the sun again, we broke camp and headed south on the Icefields Parkway. Our first stop was at Mt. Edith Cavell, accessed just a few dozen kilometers south of Jasper.

The road up to the mountain and glacier was paved but in bad condition, so the 14.5km passed slowly, but the views more than made up for the bouncy, twisty ride.

Named after nurse Edith Cavell who was executed by German forces in WWI for helping Allied soldiers escape Belgium, the site is suitably majestic and uplifting.

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The lower end of the upper glacier is known as the "Angel," while ice calved from the lower part floats in the little lake.

Posted by Paul at 07:42 PM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2004

Hiking Near Gorgeous Maligne Lake

Up at the crack of dawn, we built a smokey fire from damp wood, ate breakfast, and headed off to Maligne Lake.

The sky cleared and the sun came out, literally brightening the prospects for some good hiking. The drive to Maligne Lake took us past Medicine Lake, an interesting body of water that appears and disappears with the seasons.

In the spring, Medicine Lake magically appears as the snow melts, and then gradually shrinks over the summer until it disappears in the autumn. The mystery was solved when underground channels were discovered that empty the lake at a pace that doesn't keep up with the spring rush, but eventually drain it as the inflow decreases.

We arrived at Maligne Lake around 9:30 a.m., ahead of the tour bus rush. It was beautiful. We walked the shore, and hiked a loop through the woods.

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After having lunch sitting on some rocks near the shoreline, we headed back toward Jasper. We stopped at Maligne Canyon for another hike.

The hike down the canyon is spectacular, with amazing rock formations and thundering water. Some of the underground channels from Medicine Lake can be seen emptying into the canyon. We took the trail as far down as 5th bridge, and then considered returning to the parking lot on a different trail through the forest.

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There was a cougar warning out for the area, so we were a bit uncertain about the narrow, darker, less-used forest path, however with tighter grips on our walking poles, we ventured forth.

About 50 meters into the forest Yumi suddenly stopped dead in her tracks, and pointed at a muddy area on the path. Superimposed on horse tracks was a perfect cat print, only the size indicated this was no house cat! A careful look around found more cougar tracks, and we about-faced and with tingling spines headed back to the path along the canyon where there were plenty of other hikers.

Posted by Paul at 06:55 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2004

Sleeping With Elk in Jasper

We left Prince George early in the morning and cruised east on the Yellowhead (Highway 16) toward Jasper. It was overcast with occasional rain.

Being avid streamkeepers, we stopped several times along the way to check out rivers and creeks including the Willow River, Bowron River, Slim Creek and the Milk River.

As we approached the intersection of highways 16 and 5, I recalled that there was a salmon viewing area in Valemount, about 20km south of our course. We decided to check it out, and discovered that we'd missed a chinook salmon run by a week or so. They had arrived a couple of weeks early and we saw only one carcass.

Swift Creek is billed as the home of the world's longest chinook salmon run -- the fish travel 1,280km from the Pacific Ocean up the Fraser River and to the creek to spawn. Apparently they average about 18km a day. Amazing.

Retracing our course back to the 16, we continued east to Mt. Robson Provincial Park where we stopped for a tailgate lunch and a visit to the information center.

It's hard to believe that the icy blue torrent one sees in the north is the same Fraser River that is a brown, silt-filled working channel back home in Burnaby.

We arrived in Jasper around dinner time, and headed for the Whistlers campground, the only one that was open due to the "strategic services withdrawal" underway by national park staff negotiating for better wages. Park staff were uniformly friendly and helpful throughout our trip.

As we registered at the campground, we were warned to be on the lookout for elk, as it was the mating season and the males could be aggressive.

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We set up camp, got a fire going and were cooking dinner when a group of female elk appeared, three mature and three yearlings, slowly moving along while munching on grass and shrubs. Not long after a male with an impressive rack appeared, obviously the leader of the harem.

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We were a bit nervous while the male was around, but eventually he trotted off, and the females bedded down less than 10 meters from our tent! We thought that eventually they would move on, but on our last bathroom run for the night, we discovered they were still sleeping there.

Posted by Paul at 10:33 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2004

On the Road to Prince George

We headed out of town on our camping trip with qualms about possibly rainy weather. We planned to stay at 10 Mile Lake Provincial Park north of Quesnel.

We camped there several years ago and it was a pretty park.

I'm always amazed by the diversity of ecological zones in BC. As you drive north from the lower mainland, you leave lush coastal areas and enter near-desert landscapes. The terrain keeps changing and eventually you are in rolling hills and thick forests.

Unfortunately, as we neared our destination, we encountered light rain that steadily picked up in intensity to the point that it was pouring as we approached the park.

We didn't want to start our trip with a soaked night of tenting and the resulting wet tarps and equipment in our stuffed-to-the-gills car, so we decided to head north to Prince George to find a cheap motel.

We found the city difficult to naviagate on a dark, rainy evening, however we finally settled on a motel and hoped for better weather for the next day when we planned to head for Jasper National Park.

Posted by Paul at 09:37 PM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2004

Autumn Camping Trip

We worked straight through the summer and finally booked a week off in mid-September. The plan was to do a loop through BC and Alberta, heading north to Prince George, west to Jasper, south to Banff, and then back to Burnaby.

We left on Sept. 10 and we're home now (Sept. 17), and over the next few days I plan to post photos and comments about our adventures.

Overall it was a mostly cloudy, rainy trip, however we were always fortunate to arrive at campgrounds during lulls in the rain so we could set up our tent and raise tarps so we could stay dry.

We also had several sunny spells for some great hikes.

I'll backdate the posts to the days events transpired to keep things simple.

Posted by Paul at 09:20 PM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2004

Foamy, Smelly Flow Hits Byrne Creek

There was a foamy, chemical-smelling dump in Byrne Creek today that had the hallmark of somebody pouring something down a storm drain.

Yumi and I headed out for our creek walk around noon, just as it started to rain. As we reached the bottom of the ravine stairs, the creek was rising, but the water was still nice and clear.

We walked into the spawning/rearing habitat below Southridge Dr., and as I was setting up to take a water temperature reading at the lower end of the Sediment Pond around 12:45, Yumi suddenly shouted that there was foam pouring out of the culvert under Southridge Dr.

It had a fairly clear leading edge, and was as high as about 15cm in places. Yumi shot some photos as I called it in to the city. I reached an environmental services officer who said she was in the upper watershed and would check a few spots and work her way down to us. The foam had a smell sort of like a cross between detergent, toilet bowl cleaner and Lysol.

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The foam continued to pour in quite heavily for 10-15 minutes before the flow began dissipating. Yumi went back up the ravine and reported that the creek was still clear, with no odour, so the stuff had to be coming down Southridge.

Yumi took a pH reading at the upper end of the culvert in the ravine, and it was pretty normal, near 7. She came back down to the Sediment Pond, and the pH at the lower end of the culvert was off the scale, but it appeared to be lower than 6 (the bottom end of our paper).

The environmental services officer arrived, and just then the Sediment Pond began overflowing. As the water tumbled down the spillway, it began to foam again, and the odour intensified. The officer said she'd take a water sample.

We didn't see any fish in distress, and watched for awhile as the foam filled the Overflow Pond.

As Yumi and I headed home up the ravine around 1:45, the water was high, chocolate coloured, and somewhat foamy, but there was no odour.

Posted by Paul at 03:39 PM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2004

Streamkeepers Enjoy a Taste of Edmonds

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers enjoyed a sunny Labour Day at the Taste of Edmonds event organized by the Southside Community Church.

It was a fun-filled and tummy filling event. For the cost of a $2.00 "passport" you could taste dishes from 10 ethnic groups and local restaurants.

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We had our booth set up, and it's always interesting to talk to people in the community, many of whom have no idea they are living in the watershed of a salmon-bearing creek.

The biggest draw to our booth is our stamp-painting table. It attracts the kids, who in turn drag their parents in. We're a laid back bunch, and only talk about streamkeeping and caring for the environment to those who express interest.

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People are amazed to discover that storm drains are part of the creek.

"So where is Byrne Creek?"

"You're standing on it."

"What!"

This neighborhood is undergoing dramatic changes with a new shopping center and highrise residential towers, a new public library, and a new public swimming pool all underway or in the works. It will be interesting to see how the Taste of Edmonds develops over the next few years.

Posted by Paul at 08:41 PM | Comments (0)