Winding and bubbling Bowker Creek welcomes walkers and visitors after a major overhaul of the waterway adjacent to Oak Bay High.
A crowd gathered at the open air classroom Tuesday (March 1) as Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen and MLA Peter Fassbender, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, planted a tree to officially open the project.
“The completion of this phase of our Bowker Creek project is a big step forward in restoring the health and ecology of an important urban watershed,” said Jensen.
“It was made possible by the exemplary collaboration among local, provincial and federal governments in partnership with Oak Bay High, the school board and our community. We showed it can be done by all of us working together.”
The reconstruction of about 120 metres of Bowker Creek included channel excavation, channel enhancements, bio-engineering bank stabilization, landscaping, planting, irrigation and the construction of community amenities including an outdoor classroom.
“This is where for the next several generations you’re going to find students working as they think about fresh water sustainability they think about urban waterways, they think about recapturing the fisheries and they think about the importance of the work that we have to do with our environment,” said principal Dave Thomson during the event.
“This is a lesson in living the dream that I think is very important to all of us.”
The federal government provides $253,276,892 annually for municipal infrastructure in B.C. through the federal Gas Tax Fund administered by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. Funding for the restoration of a section of Bowker Creek included a $738,000 gas tax contribution.
Those partnerships from federal right down to community groups and the students themselves, who worked most recently on native plantings in the corridor, also impressed Fassbender.
“I know there are two cornerstones (in the outdoor classroom) that the mayor told me about from the (Craigdarroch) castle that form the corner of those benches that the students will be able to sit on. For me this is a recognition of how important education is as we look at our environment and sustainability,” Fassbender said.
“I know the teachers and the students are going to benefit from this project in many ways.”
The creek restoration is one of 10 short-term actions in the Bowker Creek blueprint, which sets out a 100-year vision for restoring the health of this highly urbanized watershed. This is the $448,883.22 second phase of the Bowker Creek Initiative’s project to rejuvenate the waterway restoration project adjacent to the creek, through the CRD’s Bowker Creek Initiative. The first phase of project included extensive student and community engagement to develop a detailed design for the site.
“It has been an incredible model of working together to come to this,” said Jensen. “Students will be able to come here to learn, to enjoy, to connect with that nature which is so important for so many reasons not the least of which is the mental health of our future generations.”