Thank you, Chair.
Welcome, honourable members, and thank you for allowing me to talk to you on urban conservation and how it relates to Bear Creek Park in Surrey.
I gave you some figures in my package. In figure 1, for those who don't know, we have the Fraser River to our north, the State of Washington to the south, Delta and Boundary Bay over to the west, and the Township of Langley to our east. There are over 1,500 open watercourses in Surrey, of which about 700 either support a fishery or have the potential to support a fishery. The three major river systems in Surrey are the Little Campbell, Serpentine, and Nicomekl Rivers.
Bear Creek Park is located in the middle of Surrey, as you can see in figure 2. It's in the northwest quadrant of Surrey in a highly urbanized area. The three major creeks going through Bear Creek are King Creek, Bear Creek, and Quibble Creek. All three support an active salmon run, mainly chum and coho.
It should be noted that Bear Creek Park was used as a landfill in the fifties and sixties, so it's a highly modified park. It's not in a natural state, but through the years, people have brought a lot of the resources back to make it more of a natural amenity in Surrey.
Within the park—figure 3—there are recreation facilities, including athletic tracks, a playground, and swimming pools. Plus, you have a significant natural area around and adjacent to the creeks, with walking trails, etc., at a good distance so we don't have too much intrusion.
In order to understand urban conservation and how we can protect Bear Creek, you have to understand what we're doing as a city as a whole, including some of the more significant ways through which the city is trying to preserve urban conservation.
We have a sustainability charter that looks at the social, economic, and environmental aspects of creating our sustainable city.
We have a natural drainage policy that was developed in the seventies: council decided to leave creeks open. We did not follow the philosophy of enclosing creeks as urbanization occurred in Surrey. We kept creeks as an integral part of our drainage system, but we left them open.
We've since also come up with the ecological management plan for Surrey. We're looking at using the concept of a green infrastructure network, the same as one would have a pipe network, but having it in the green community and looking at the hubs, nodes, and links. In the city, how do we link them together to preserve a green city and urban conservation?
A biodiversity plan is currently under way to try to expand our green infrastructure network even further to make sure that by linking all our significant environmental areas, we can maximize the biodiversity that we can keep in our urban setting.
We also have neighbourhood concept plans. We do quite a bit of this in Surrey. We have all the different departments and stakeholders, etc., get together to do the community planning in a holistic way to meet the various needs of the different things.
Then again, we have integrated stormwater management planning. Again, we bring land use planning, recreation, and transportation into our watershed planning concepts.
Where we do have our natural areas set aside, and city ownership, we have a whole strategy of how our park staff manage those natural areas within Surrey. For there to be fish and wildlife and urban conservation in Bear Creek, we have to look beyond the boundaries. We have to make sure that we have the proper city framework for all of this to work.
The city has a lot of initiatives to bring our citizens into the conservation aspect throughout all levels. We're not just educating the young. We're trying to educate the different population types—industries, developers, and everyone—on the value of having the natural environment in Surrey.
All of the stormwater in our drainage systems—off the roads and everywhere—leads to one of the creeks in Surrey. It leads to a fisheries creek in Surrey. As such, it's very important for us to communicate with the public about the importance of preserving that and about what they dump down the drains or what runs off the road into the community.
We have some key initiatives. One is a salmon habitat restoration program, and there's also the Surrey natural areas program—SHaRP and SNAP. Both actually have had federal funding and federal sponsorship in the past. We've had these programs going for 17 years now. We bring in post-secondary students and, with high school students from Surrey, we have them doing work in the creeks and education in the community. They take that back to the community and to their schools. We're trying to get them involved in the community because then they'll preserve the community.
We have huge community-based volunteer programs for everything: from Releaf, Coho Crew, Salmon Tracks—where we have storm-drain markings—and Eco Rangers, who are looking at our beachfronts, to Friends of the Forest, who are more involved in our urban forestry. We have the Tree Team, which goes around and does more tree education, and we have Salmon Savers for the Day.
We have various programs with various names covering different things in the environment to try to pique people's interest. We also have various community groups of different ethnicities involved from different parts, who we're also working with.
We have a nature centre that we've developed just within the last three to five years in Green Timbers Park, which is quite close to Bear Creek Park, again, to try to bring in urban conservation practices and a place for people to go to learn more, whether it's about composting or organic gardening, etc.
As for community events, we have an environmental extravaganza every year that lasts for about a month. It has everything from an environmental filmfest to nature walks and birding talks, which involves a lot of our community groups hosting in some of these talks, but also a significant amount of the city. Again, we're trying to get into various sectors, not just a single stream, We're partnering with schools, and we have community events, such as our big one, which is Party for the Planet. That's our big Earth Day event, where we're not just looking at the green environment, at the natural environment, but also at what we can do for our energy, etc. when we talk about these earth days.
On working with other levels of government, I find that local governments often don't have the tools or the resources to effectively manage conservation. We work with staff from higher levels of government in determining the best direction, especially when competing interests are present.
We have a very strong working relationship with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Minister of Environment. We've developed tools such as our stream classification system. It's a very simple classification, but it helps citizens, industries, and developers identify immediately which streams have more environmental significance than others. Then they know which activities they have to be more cautious with when working around different streams.
We've also had a regular monthly meeting with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to go over environmental aspects of different projects coming up in the city, whether it's a developer project or whether it's one of our own infrastructure projects, to try to help us with solutions, to try to work on things.
They also do the teaching. A lot of the federal staff help to do the urban conservation education to teach our students who are working in the streams as a base, so that they can take it further, or through other means. They also obviously participate in fish releases. They work with the hatcheries. They bring out the equipment. We do fish releases quite often in the different parks around Surrey. Bear Creek is one of the main hubs we do fish releases in, usually for chum salmon released in the fall.
As for where the federal government can assist more in urban conservation in a city like Surrey, we don't have the expertise when we're developing and implementing various plans and initiatives. We typically don't have the expertise that's at the federal level in terms of fisheries and also in terms of species at risk. We also don't have the legislation. We don't have the same legislative tools available. That's at other levels of government. When we have bad pollution offenders, we don't have the ability to go after them the same way that other levels of government do, so continuing to have those kinds of supports is welcomed. We need that for the serious breaches. I'm not talking about the small ones; I'm talking about the serious breaches we have.
At the present time, whether we're looking at our green infrastructure network or at Bear Creek or beyond the boundaries of Bear Creek, all the conservation in Surrey is done primarily through public ownership. Public ownership is typically what the city can buy. Typically, we don't get any outside funding for any of this. In urban settings, the cost of this outside ownership is massive, especially in the Vancouver area, which limits how much we can conserve.
People actually enjoy having the federal government's presence at community events such as the fish releases and stuff. People really look forward to seeing that the higher levels of government are attentive and are active in their communities.
The other thing that's unique to Surrey is that we actually have a cross-border initiative. The Bear Creek drains into the Serpentine River, which drains into Boundary Bay, which is actually shared with the State of Washington. Many of us have informal communications right now with Washington state and the City of Blaine, and to have that with the first nations.... Communication is very important to us. It also helps with the overall conservation of the bay.
I would like to thank you for this opportunity to discuss some of the urban conservation initiatives within the city. I hope this sets the stage for how we can approach the topic from a city perspective in order to ensure conservation from a more defined perspective such as Bear Creek Park. I know that my colleague Ken Bennett will be expanding more on the Bear Creek initiatives.
Without good water quality in the Serpentine watershed or community involvement in environmental values and preservation, we could not preserve or enhance Bear Creek Park.