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Willow Creek Conservation Area restored with help of students and volunteers

Greenways co-led project sees over 1,100 native trees and shrubs planted
Southgate students plant a maple tree at Willow Creek Conservation Area. Photo courtesy Greenways Land Trust.

One of Campbell River’s most beloved conservation areas has received some extra care thanks to a collaboration between two organizations and the help of hundreds of volunteers, including local students.

Willow Creek Conservation Area is a natural area located in south Campbell River featuring salmon habitat surrounded by a serene forest.

Like many greenspaces, it has experienced more visitors — and hence more impacts — since the start of the pandemic. This is shown by vegetation loss and soil compaction around the creek, said Camille Andrews, Greenways Land Trust habitat management coordinator.

“When those things happen, the soils and banks start to erode, and you can see puddling and sediment washing into the creek,” said Andrews.

To counteract these issues, Greenways partnered with the West Coast Conservation Land Management Program to complete restoration work in the park.

This work was completed with the help of a large group of volunteers plus hundreds of students from local schools. These included Georgia Park Elementary, Southgate Middle School, Ecole Willow Point Elementary, and Ocean Grove Elementary — all located in the creek’s catchment area.

Together they planted over 1,100 native trees and shrubs, placed bark mulch, and installed logs and a split-rail fence to restore and protect the area. These plantings took place over late October and early November, while the fencing was completed Nov. 17.

“It was very intensive planting every day, with between one and three school groups working,” she said.

In total, about 400 students from 18 classes worked in the area — and they were overwhelmingly eager to help, said Andrews.

“We heard quite a few times from the kids that they were really happy to see so many people working in nature and caring for nature, so that was really cool,” she said. “They loved being out there and had a really good time.”

For students, seeing passionate people working for Greenways is an inspiration, said Southgate teacher Cameron Reid, in a press release.

“Middle schoolers are hard to read, but I know you have made a difference in their lives and we will continue to visit, reflect, conserve and learn in these valuable spaces so close to our school,” he said.

The fencing will help visitors avoid the area that was restored, while logs were placed on some of the unsanctioned trails that have “popped up” in recent years, said Andrews.

The project was funded by the Healthy Watersheds Initiative, a provincial program to stimulate local economies by investments into community-driven conservation and restoration projects. This funding has allowed Greenways to hire a crew of five that has been working to restore creek and estuary habitats throughout Campbell River alongside volunteers.

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