It’s a beautiful thing when people come together for the sake of water and salmon!
In November we co-hosted an evening of conversation about the Hope Slough and other waterways around Chilliwack. “Hope for Hope Slough” was an incredible collaboration with Friends of Camp-Hope Slough and Friends of Bell Slough, in partnership with Cheam and Skwah of the Pelolxw Tribes. Over 100 people attended, including a group of youth from Skwah, and councillors from Skwah, Cheam and the City of Chilliwack. Many of those in attendance live along or near Chilliwack’s Hope, Camp, and Bell Sloughs. Some attendees were new to the community, while others have an intergenerational family history intertwined with these waterways. Everyone came with a vision of seeing their cherished waterways healthy and flowing once more; a place where salmon could spawn and kids could swim again.
Hosted on the one-year anniversary of the tragic November 2021 floods, the power of water was top of mind for many. For some, the concept of living with water—as opposed to building bigger, higher dikes and pushing water away—was hard to imagine. People talked about the realities of climate change and the need to find nature-based solutions. Overall, folks agreed that the flows in these waterways are an issue, with either too much or too little water present, and solutions are needed. Actions to support the health of the waterways include restoring riparian habitats in partnership with landowners, removing fish passage obstructions and continuing to inspire, celebrate and tell the stories of these waterways and the people who love them.
Many people talked about how important these waterways were for connecting with nature close to home. The Pelolxw Tribes brought everyone’s attention to the more complex value of the waterways. We were reminded that in pre-colonial times, the communities of Cheam and Skwah used the waterways to travel back and forth between their villages; a form of travel much safer than taking the mighty Fraser River. It’s not every day we get to confront the deeper connections to these special places and understand their social, cultural and ecological connections.
This conversation brought together a diversity of voices all clearly in support of healthy, restored and revitalized waterways. The evening was witnessed by municipal councillors and staff and their federal counterparts from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada who, at the end of the evening, spoke to the values they were hearing from the community and shared an openness to support future restoration work. Our next steps will include following up with the city on potential partnerships, supporting the Pelolxw Tribes with their projects and continuing to engage the community and celebrate these waterways through events such as plantings, canoe tours, clean-ups and more.
If you live along any of Chilliwack’s sloughs or have an interest in restoring their health, let us know! We’d love your help. Follow Friends of Camp-Hope Slough on Facebook or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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