A group of dedicated volunteers were working away with pruning shears, clipping willow trees along the Myrt Thompson Trail Sunday.
They aren’t arborists and they weren’t doing it for the good of the trees themselves – though they weren’t hurting them. They were streamkeepers and they were working on a completely different waterway over a kilometre away.
Sunday’s operation was a restoration effort for Kingfisher Creek, which runs through the Haig Brown Heritage House property on Highway 28.
“What ends up happening in a lot of cases with our urban streams is that the riparian vegetation is destroyed,” says Chuck DeSourcy with the Willow Creek Watershed Society, who was directing the operation on Sunday, “either by beavers taking it away or by people clearing it where they really shouldn’t be at all.”
DeSourcy started by giving the volunteers a rundown of what willow looks like, how to clip sections off of it so as not to damage the plant and to make the stalks easy to pound into the streambed down the road about an hour later.
“We’ve been working on Kingfisher Creek for probably the last four or five years to repair the riparian habitat, and one of the best ways to do that is to help cover it so that in the summer, you don’t cook all your fish,” DeSourcy says.
“This willow was planted by the Department of Fisheries maybe 20 years ago as a restoration project for the Campbell,” he says, pointing along the trail at the volunteers at work. They can take clippings of it – as long as they do it properly and don’t take too many – without impacting what the willow does for the shore of the Campbell but still use some of it to help the Kingfisher by driving the stalks into the creekbed, where they will take root and grow, shading the salmon habitat.
While they perform various restoration efforts throughout the year, DeSourcy says, willow transplantation is only done “in the early spring or late winter, because you don’t want them starting to grow until they’re in the stream and settled, so it’s best to get them before the growth has started.”
This year, however, they were a bit late in getting to them, and they are starting to bud already.
“This is about the latest we want to be doing harvesting them, because they’re starting to bud out,” he admits. “We’d really like them in the creek a little better established before those pussy willows suck all the energy out of the stem, but I think we’ll be okay. We’re not too, too late, and we’re going right from here and right into the stream, so that’s a real big plus.”
DeSourcy says while they were focused on Kingfisher Creek on Sunday, there are many needs in the community in terms of streamkeeping efforts.
“Kingfisher’s not having any more of an issue than any of our other urban streams,” he says, “but there are only so many people out here doing this and we can only do so many streams at a time, so Kingfisher, right now, is the one we’re focusing on.”
He does hope, however, that the volunteers who came out Sunday can use what they’ve learned and take part in other restoration or mitigation efforts.
“There are five or six streams in the Campbell River area that are looked after by different streamkeeper groups, so this is a demonstration that any of these guys, if they want, can take that knowledge with them to work on any of the other streams working with those other streamkeeper groups.”
The work was being done in partnership with Greenways Land Trust. Anyone interested in future restoration or educational opportunities can get on their email newsletter by signing up at greenwaystrust.ca or by following them on Facebook.