Thanks to the planning, sweat, and diligence of a neighborhood volunteer group known as the Spanish Banks Streamkeepers, coho salmon are spawning in Spanish Banks Creek for the first time in more than fifty years.
Spanish Banks Creek, just down the beach from us in Vancouver, originates in Pacific Spirit Park, overlooking English Bay and the Straight of Georgia. The creek once ended in 90 meters of choked, narrow, subterranean culvert running beneath the N.W. Marine Drive roadway, the Spanish Banks parking lot, and the beach itself. Now, the creek-bed has been restored and the salmon are returning.
Habituating the fish to a new home-base, like the restored creek, is no mean feat. The stream has been stocked with tens of thousands of tiny coho and chum, which will head for the sea after six months to a year in the stream. So hard-wired are these fish to breed in their place of birth, most will return to the river of the fish hatchery from which they originated, rather than this stream. Still, for the past two years, several dozen salmon have retuned to lay and fertilize eggs in Spanish Banks Creek.
The purpose of the creek restoration is not to create an environment where thousands of fish will spawn each year. Rather, it is a symbol of habitat healing and well-placed environmental priorities. It is also a significant educational tool. The Steamkeepers can often be found at the creek, giving formal lectures to groups of school children and having informal, though no less informational, chats with the walkers, runners, and bicyclists who happen by.
Vancouver once had more than 30 steams in which coho and sockeye salmon ran; all but two of these have been lost to urban development. If salmon re-colonize Spanish Banks Creek, that would make a third.
The stream is a place of pride for our community and living proof that people can create and restore as well as destroy.
Note how the old beach parkinglot has been bisected by the creek restoration.