Bernie Heinrichs stands beside the Millstone River near Biggs Road. Heinrichs is the organizer of an event that will see geocachers volunteer to clean up and help restore this section of the river bank on Sept. 21. (Nicholas Pescod/NEWS BULLETIN)

Nanaimo geocaching event aims to restore section of Millstone River

Cache in Trash out event takes place on Sept. 21 near Biggs Road

A group of geocachers are looking to repair section of the banks of the Millstone River.

On Sept. 21, a group of volunteers and geocachers from around Vancouver Island will be planting trees, installing fences and restoring an area of the river near Biggs Road.

It’s all part of an event known in the geocaching world as Cache In Trash Out or CITO, an environmental initiative that aims to preserve and clean up natural areas the geocachers enjoy according to Geocaching.com. CITO events often focus on cleaning garbage, removing invasive species, planting trees or building trails.

Bernie Heinrichs, event organizer, geocacher and volunteer stream keeper, said he selected the riverbank because he took part in a restoration project there a few years ago.

“This area along the river is one of my favourite spots and it needs some work,” Heinrichs said. “I figured this would be a good place to introduce people to bank restoration.”

Heinrichs said the event is on private property but that his group has been given permission from the property owner. He said more restoration work needs to be done because the bank is starting to erode and could collapse into the river, making it harder for coho salmon, beavers and animals that frequent the river.

“We always want to repair eroded banks,” he said. “Eroded banks, when they fall into the river, they create muck and murky water and the fish don’t like that.”

Participants in the CITO event will learn about previous bio-engineering work, automated irrigation and how a nearby beaver dam helps to improve fish habitat.

“The most important part about the event is learning about the restoration efforts along the river…” Heinrichs said. “We are going to do some more planting. I’ve got a couple of fir trees and other types that we will plant along the river bank.”

Heinrichs said the bio-engineering work that was done on the river bank a few years ago involved planting trees in a particular way so that they end up creating a natural wall that prevents the bank from spilling into the river.

“We used strictly plant materials to restore the river bank,” he said. “We dug some holes with a dibbler and then we planted some vertical and horizontal plantings. They get woven in and that’s what makes the wall.”

The normal cost of repairing the banks would be over $20,000 for machinery and labour alone, but according to Heinrichs, with the help of some volunteer labour, the project costs much less.

“This way of bio-engineering was about $300,” he said. “It wasn’t that much labour. There were about 10 of us here and it took us about an hour and a half.”

The CITO event takes place on Sept. 21 at 10 a.m. For more information on the event, visit https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC8C4D1_eroded-river-bank-restoration-cito.

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