Dave Clough, the City of Nanaimo, and the DWWP program (RDN) all encouraged us to do an in-depth survey of the creek to help establish restoration priorities. With support from the Pacific Salmon Foundation, we bought a hip chain to measure distance, made a pole to measure water depth, and set up an iPad with the Avenza app to hold the data we planned collect. Dave Clough met us at the beach where Walley Creek meets the ocean, and walked us through how to distinguish a pool from a riffle - the two habitat units measured using USHP methodology. Working our way up the creek, gaining confidence as we went, we collected a dozen data points for each habitat unit. In 2016 we measured Reach 1 - from the ocean to Morningside Drive, Reach 2 - from Morningside to Shores Drive, and Reach 3 - from Shores Drive to McGuffie Road. It was incredible to look at the creek and its inhabitants so closely.
Reach 1 Habitat Unit 02, just up from the beach.
Reach 3 - Walley Creek above Shores Drive is essentially one long pool. Here the creek flows through a clay liner that the RDN constructed during the 2002 upgrade to the Greater Nanaimo Pollution Control Centre. At the top, near McGuffie Road is a large wetland where we found evidence of a beaver.
In 2016 we collected data on 71 habitat units over 3 reaches! In addition, we started water quality monitoring through the RDN's Community Watershed Monitoring Program.
In May 2016, NALT offered a Streamkeepers workshop on Departure Creek. Nina was able to attend the two full days of training, and became an official Streamkeeper! As a group we decided it was time to visit Gail Adrienne, NALT's Executive Director, to thank her for connecting us, and to ask her advice about what to do next. She suggested working with Dave Clough to plan for riparian planting. This would help establish shade and prevent erosion of the banks of the creek.
Gail also had great information about the history of Walley Creek. She said it is one of the last creeks in Nanaimo that is open to daylight along its whole length, and that it is known for having year round flow. She knew that the Georgia Basin Ecological Assessment and Restoration Society (GBEARS) did a small project to restore a culvert along Walley Creek many years ago. She suggested we do as much research as possible into the history of the area so we would know what to realistically aim for in terms of restoration. She alluded to many (ahem) interesting diversions of the creek by people who live beside it, especially in the strata neighborhood at McGuffie and Hammond Bay Roads.
Finally Gail suggested we officially become the Walley Creek Streamkeepers, as a committee under NALT. This solved our dilemma about how formal our group should be and how to apply for grants for the work we want to do. It's official - we are the Walley Creek Streamkepers!
We have hardly begun, and already have a long list of questions about how to "improve" the creek. If we look at Walley Creek through the eyes of DFO, our goal should be to restore its salmon-bearing qualities.
An obvious step in that direction would be to remove a large boulder that's acting as a fish barrier near the mouth of Walley Creek where it drains into the ocean. The rock is just a little too high for salmon to leap over, even with good fall flow. Describing this problem to people elicits really creative solutions. Get a crew of people together and roll it out to sea! Blast it out with dynamite! Put smaller rocks below it to create steps for the salmon to leap up! Tie a piece of rope around the rock and tie the other end to a truck and haul it out of there!
Ah, not so fast says our biologist and consultant. If we remove the barrier, what are we allowing salmon access to? Coho salmon imprint on a certain area, but they are opportunistic. They will try going up a small creek to see if it offers good spawning habitat. If the habitat is poor, they'll swim back to sea and try somewhere else. If we allow them access to Walley Creek now, we're just wasting their time unless we actually improve the spawning habitat higher up.
So for now the boulder is a low priority, while we consider our options for stream assessment. The satisfaction of removing it will have to wait.
Our group was formed when each of us independently contacted the Nanaimo & Area Land Trust wondering if any work was being done to steward Walley Creek in North Nanaimo. One of our members lives right where Walley Creek reaches the ocean in Hammond Bay; for decades she has watched and tended the stream, concerned by garbage washing downstream and the lack of care for the riparian integrity. The Executive Director of NALT, Gail Adrienne put us in contact, and we started by asking our local Fisheries and Oceans Community Advisor to help us. Biologist Dave Clough spent time with us walking the upper watershed, near Springfield Place, and the lowest part of Walley Creek, where it empties into Hammond Bay near Morningside Drive.
We came up with a long list of priorities for further research and restoration activities, including:
If you've lived in Nanaimo for a while, you'll notice that there is constant change. The desire to live in this beautiful place puts consistent development pressure on our land base. Over the last 50 years North Nanaimo has changed from the "boonies" to a sea of subdivisions. (If you want to read more about the History of Walley Creek click here.) Most urban creeks and streams have either been culverted and paved over, or treated as dumps for fill since they are less desirable areas for development. Fortunately, Walley Creek has not been paved over, but it suffers its share of degradation in areas that have not been protected as park land. Some of the factors motivating the protection of Walley Creek are - development encroaching into precious wetlands, and illegal dumping of yard waste in riparian areas. We want to protect this beautiful corridor for all the life it supports, and for the human health benefits of having access to nature.