Thanks to all who pitched in to help with our annual river cleanup. The event has become something of an institution in our community and would not be possible without support from our sponsors and community members.
Spearheaded by the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society with support from the CVRD, Town of Lake Cowichan, the Cowichan Watershed Board and Cowichan Tribes our cleanup covered nearly the whole river from the weir to the estuary over two days. This year we removed about a ton of junk and thousands of returnable containers from the river. The total amount of junk was a bit down from past years and we take this as a good sign as we think that people are becoming a bit more aware that they should pack out their garage with them after visiting our river.
Volunteers enjoyed a free breakfast before and barbeque after the event as well as some great prizes donated by our sponsors. I was happy to see a couple of young girls looking at some fishing outfits. They asked me if these would work for trout fishing and when I said they would be perfect they walked away with their rods and huge smiles on their faces. We might have another couple of river stewards in the making, those that get out on the river and enjoy a day of fishing or other activity will come to love it and want to protect it as many of us do.
It was wonderful to see people coming up from Victoria to pitch in and a diving club from Nanaimo helped retrieve articles from the deeper parts of the river. Many of our local elected officials were there as well demonstrating leadership and community support.
On my beat, which covers from Stoltz Park to Sandy pool, I use my large inflatable river raft. With a crew of 3 we drift the river down an area with little public access and about half way down a local resident came down to watch us go by and asked if we were doing the river cleanup. When we said we were he gave us a big thumbs up and a thank you. The River Cleanup has been going for 5 years and it seems most of our community is aware of it and supportive. To make it easy to remember we will be holding the event on the third weekend of August each year.
Our Stewardship community has a goal to protect and preserve our riparian areas and with that in mind a group of us went on a tour of the Shaw Creek estuary. This area is currently undeveloped private land with forest land zoning and is for sale. Shaw Creek is one of the largest tributaries feeding cool fresh water to our lake and the estuary is very important habitat for trout, salmon, lampreys, amphibians, elk, deer and many species of birds. It is arguably the single most important riparian estuary feeding the lake. Most of the estuary area is very low and unsuitable for development. It is off the grid and has water access only unless you are willing to cross the creek as our group did.
Our group included CVRD directors, Cowichan Tribes, Catalyst, The Land Conservancy of BC and several local stewardship and conservation groups. We were all impressed with the natural state and beauty of the area. We discussed the possibility of obtaining this private land for our community so that it can be protected and preserved into the future. There was a lot interest and we hope by pooling our energy and resources that we find a way to obtain this critical habitat for our community to enjoy. We must take advantage of any opportunity to preserve these critically important riparian areas that maintain our water quality and the health of our watershed ecosystems.