River stewards organize to clean up Chase River

Local stream yielded record salmon returns in 2011, but is currently packed with garbage and shopping carts.

It’s well known that fish don’t need bicycles. They also don’t need shopping carts, litter, furniture, car wheels or any other form of human-made debris.

That’s why the Harbour City River Stewards are teaming up with Nanaimo Recycling Exchange, South End Community Association and Vancouver Island University to clean up parts of the Chase River this weekend (Aug. 18-19).

And they’re looking for volunteers to help.

According to a recent student report from the resource management officer technology program at VIU, foreign material is creating a problem for fish and their habitat. Among the worst areas are bridges crossing the river at Howard, Bruce and Park avenues, as well as the trail behind John Barsby Secondary School and Harewood Park.

According to Dan Fox of VIU, there were 14 shopping carts located in the river, and some of them are solidly entrenched in the sediment, making it difficult to remove them.

“Summer low flows are a perfect time for this type of activity,” said Fox. “Removing debris now means that it will not be flushed downstream or out to sea during the fall freshet.”

The Chase River is home to resident rainbow trout and coastal cutthroat trout and provides a significant amount of habitat for chum and coho salmon fry, according to Fox.

In 2011, approximately 400 coho and 3,000 chum returned to the Chase River to spawn, providing one of the strongest returns in recent history.

Cleanup crews meet at Robins Park at Park Avenue and Fifth Street at 9 a.m. Saturday and cleanup locations will include under the bridges at Park, Bruce and Howard avenues and on Seventh Street, as well as the culvert at the end of the alleyway across from the intersection of Sixth Street and Georgia Avenue, among others.

Interested participants should bring bug spray, rubber boots and gloves, as well as a lunch.

“As an urban stream, the Chase River needs our help to keep it clean so that fish populations can continue to thrive there,” said Fox. “It is efforts such as these by concerned citizens and stewards that continue to make Nanaimo a beautiful place to live.”

The Harbour City River Stewards is a group of people dedicated to the restoration and conservation of salmon habitat and aquatic ecosystems in Nanaimo, including Millstone River, Chase River, Beck Creek and Departure Creek.

For more information, please e-mail Fox at Daniel.Fox@viu.ca or phone his cell at 250-618-8307.