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Campbell River estuary getting rewilded by dedicated team

Greenways tells public of reclamation work at Mill Pond
Chuck DeSorcy, Janis LaCouvée, Cynthia Bendickson, Camille Andrews, and Kylie Knox were all excited to tell people enjoying Baikie Island Nature Preserve about Greenway Land Trust plans to restore the area further. Ronan O’Doherty photo/ Campbell River Mirror

Campbell River is hardly lacking for beautiful places to take a walk.

Even with all the choice in the world, many locals enjoy the quiet and beauty of the Baikie Island Nature Reserve.

Folks out for a stroll on Saturday, June 18, saw representatives of Greenways Land Trust manning a small booth at the parking lot, excited to explain some of the new restoration work being done on site.

Executive director Cynthia Bendickson pointed out the conservation organization has been working on the Campbell River estuary for almost 10 years straight.

“We maintain the Baikie Island Nature Reserve on behalf of the city,” she said. “We’ve been doing lots of work around continued restoration, and invasive species management.”

While much has been done, Bendickson said there is still plenty to accomplish when it comes to improving the sensitive ecosystem for the wildlife which make their home within.

“It’s had lots of impact during the 20th century from the forest industry,” Bendickson said. “Log booming and salt marshes being dug out have had a significant negative impact on the salmon habitat, and the habitat for wildlife down here.”

The latest project is going to attempt to restore Mill Pond on the Baikie Island Nature Reserve. The material which was originally dug up will be returned to the water to recreate salt marsh benches, and efforts to restore eel grass bed will be made.

READ MORE: Campbell River estuary a showcase for the reclamation of ruined habitat

READ MORE: Final phase of Baikie Island restoration project complete

Passersby on a sunny Saturday were told of all the ways they can support the effort.

“You can always come out to volunteer with us,” Bendickson said. “We’re always looking for members.”

Any funding help is appreciated by the Greenways Land Trust too.

“These are very expensive projects,” the executive director explained. “This is almost a $300,000 project, and we actually need more money.

“It’s not cheap when you start talking about excavators, and bulldozers and dump trucks, and getting all those things on site.

“But it’s needed, and very much worth it.”

Kylie Knox is part of an engineering team with Northwest Hydraulic Consultants. She is working with Greenways on the design of the project, and was on hand to go over more technical aspects of the project.

She said one of the biggest challenges to the restoration effort is going to be sourcing the right amount of fill they need to create salt marsh benches in the really deep areas of the Mill Pond.

“Fill is quite expensive,” she said, “So we’ve been looking for companies that might be dumping it as sea, so we can potentially re-route them to the site.”

Any old fill won’t do. They will be looking for gravel, and it can’t be contaminated in any way, Knox said.

“Because it’s an estuary, it’s a fairly sensitive habitat, so it needs to be clean material.”

Another important aspect of the design is planning for inevitable climate change.

“Sea level rise is coming, so we’re anticipating a meter of rise in the next 30 to 40 years,” Bendickson said.

“So we’re not going to be planting trees in areas that are going to be flooded.

“We’re building it so things can rise upwards in elevation as sea level increases.

“It’s sad that we have to do it, but…”

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