North Saanich kids become creek stewards

Deep Cove students release salmon fry into Chalet Creek during Earth Week events.

Deep Cove Elementary students Jacob Greenway

For more than a decade, students and staff at Deep Cove Elementary School have helped restore a nearby creek to good health.

During the North Saanich school’s Earth Week events, kindergarten and Grade 4 and 5 students walked down to a farmer’s field where Chalet Creek runs. There, they met up with members of Peninsula Streams and the Sidney Anglers to release salmon fry into the water.

The creek at one time was covered over by culverts and was basically a ditch, says Ian Bruce, a biologist and executive director of Peninsula Streams. The organization started its Chalet (or Tatlow) Creek restoration program, partnering with Deep Cove Elementary, and uncovered the creek with the goal of making it a salmon spawning channel once again.

Over the years, he said, students planted trees along the banks to provide shade and cover for fish.

At the school itself, students have been raising young Chum and Coho salmon and releasing them once they are able to withstand the wild.

Peninsula Streams board member and one of the Friends of Chalet Creek, Newton  Hockey says the work started as a way to bring neighbours in the area together for a common cause. Today, the creek is doing well, although salmon have yet to make a real return to the water.

Grant MacPherson of Sidney Anglers said only one per cent of the fry will survive into adulthood in the ocean. Of that, only two per cent will last long enough to spawn. Salmon have been coming back to Chalet Creek, he said, but there’s still work to do.

It’s this job that the students seem very willing to do.

(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story referred to the program as Creatures of Habitat. That is Peninsula Streams’ environmental eduction program for Grade 6 students.)