Renfrew-Collingwood: Spreading the love for Renfrew Ravine

11th annual Moon Festival celebrates revival of ravine’s Still Creek

Carmen Rosen volunteered to pull discarded toilets and tiles out of Renfrew Ravine when she moved near Renfrew and East 22nd avenue in 2000.

She then applied her creative passion to the problem and organized the first Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival in 2003.

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“If I can get people to love the ravine, half our work is done,” Rosen figured.

Now thousands of community members of various backgrounds gather for the annual event, youth who’ve helped improve the health of the ravine are writing graduate papers about it at university and this year’s 11th annual festival, Sept. 21, will celebrate the revival of the salmon run in Still Creek, which flows through the ravine.

Volunteers, the non-profit Evergreen and teens from Windermere secondary have planted native trees and plants in the ravine. In 2006, they created a mosaic bench on top of asphalt someone once dumped at a corner of the ravine. Last year, the Still Moon Arts Society got teens focusing on ecosystem management with Canadian Environmental Award-winning forest ecologist, forester and educator Herb Hammond.

The city and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have worked to restore Still Creek, which flows into Burnaby, through five municipalities, Rosen says, before it meets the ocean. Last November, the first major run of chum salmon spawned in Still Creek in Burnaby and also Vancouver where none had been seen for 80 years.

“They never believed any would come back to Vancouver,” Rosen said. “All the experts said it wouldn’t happen because there’s too much pipe between the Burnaby section and the Vancouver section, they have to swim under a whole section of Boundary Road.”

A week after the salmon run the park board kicked off consultations about a master plan to rehabilitate Renfrew Ravine Park and Renfrew Community Park. Rosen said “a ton” of people participated.

The park board hired a landscape architecture firm last fall to develop a master plan for the parks in collaboration with city departments, Metro Vancouver, community groups and residents.  

The plan is meant to increase recreational and educational opportunities and enhance the ecology of the parks, ravine and Still Creek.

The plan could include new trails, where appropriate, on the wild stretch of ravine, and lookouts, says Tiina Mack, manager of park development for the board.

Short-term priorities include more removal of invasive species and replanting of native species and more accessible trails for people of all ages and abilities in Renfrew Park. An old wading pool will hopefully be turned into a spray park, partly to reduce water consumption and an off-leash dog area could be added.

While Rosen loves celebrating successes related to the ravine, she concedes more work is needed.

“The stream still smells awful some days,” she said. “There are still some cross connections of sewer going into the storm water when people build illegal basement suites.”

She’d like to see the ravine become an anchor for a green neighbourhood with permeable streets and lanes so storm drains wouldn’t cause flash floods that could wash away salmon eggs in Still Creek.

Residents can celebrate the community’s successes with lantern-making classes until Sept. 19, and activities that include a Harvest Fair at Slocan Park, a twilight lantern walk along the wild ravine, art installations and music in Renfrew Park and a finale with music, puppetry and fire dancers.

The master plan will be discussed at a park board meeting, Sept. 23.

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