Monitoring local parks for invaders

A scout taking a water sample of Brunette Creek in Hume Park

A Scout taking a water sample of Brunette Creek in Hume Park.

Sharon Johal, about to call in the volunteers for the last time, looks at a small clearing in awe. The clearing is about a quarter of the size of a soccer field, and the freshly turned pile of dirt is the product of three hours of work from 41 volunteers who took down Himalayan blackberry bushes that covered the area that morning.

The volunteers met for the Uncover Your Creeks event in Lower Hume Park, New Westminster at 10 in the morning on Sunday, Nov 17. The group was made up of about 15 Scouts, a dozen experienced volunteer (they tended to have their own gloves) and some new volunteers, including a couple families. Johal says that getting volunteers can be difficult, especially when it’s raining, which it was half an hour before the event started.

Uncover Your Creeks is a program that was launched by Evergreen, a national not-for-profit society, that is dedicated to restoring natural health. The goal for Uncover Your Creeks is to monitor the water quality of local watersheds and compile data to create a database to aid management decisions. It is also to repair the natural environment in the parks by removing invasive or alien species and planting native species.

The program monitors five parks across the Lower Mainland and an event is hosted once a month at each of the parks to conduct water sampling tests and continue to repair the natural ecosystem.

“The overall goal, though, is the more people who are educated about watersheds, the better,” Johal, Urban Ecology Program Coordinator for Evergreen, said. “If we say we want to change this world and make it a green place to live, we have to do it through education.”

Creating a conversation with the goal to teach is something Johal does with passion and energy. The Scouts are attentive as she explains how invasive species take over a terrain and are detrimental to the environment. They are eager to have the chance to perform one of the seven water sampling tests, even after Johal warns them that it smells slightly by the creek. That’s a good thing: salmon have spawned in the creek, and they smell as their bodies now decompose and as they become a food source.

In a gesture that may have given some scientist a heart attack, Johal splits everyone into seven groups and hands out the sampling kits. The tests aren’t difficult to perform, though. Each contains simple instructions. The most cumbersome part is gathering a water sample. Then, the volunteers put a tablet or drop of something into the test tube and wait for the water to change colour. It’s exciting to watch the results and Johal brings everyone together in a group to discuss them.

Then Johal sends them to finish clearing their section of the park and warns them that it will be time to turn in the supplies, pack up the truck and leave. At 1 p.m., some volunteers still haven’t put their shovels away, determined to get that last Himalayan blackberry root bulb out of the earth before they leave.


Nature-lover, book nerd, potentially hazardous adrenaline junkie. I often wonder why? Completing my BA in Journalism and Creative Writing.

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