Sensitive salmon habitat in Coquitlam damaged by vandalism, extra traffic

·2 min read
The City of Coquitlam's sensitive salmon habitat has come under threat recently from vandals and extra traffic. (City of Coquitlam  - image credit)
The City of Coquitlam's sensitive salmon habitat has come under threat recently from vandals and extra traffic. (City of Coquitlam - image credit)

The City of Coquitlam is asking people to stick to park trails after sensitive salmon habitat in a city creek was damaged by vandalism and extra traffic.

In late March, rocks and sandbags were found in a culvert that feeds into Maple Creek's off-channel pond.

Erin Gorby, the urban forestry and parks services manager for Coquitlam, said the city was alerted to the damage by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and a local streamkeeper group.

"What we found when we visited the area was that there were several unsanctioned trails in the area and ... a culvert that feeds an off-channel habitat pond for young salmon had been repeatedly plugged with boulders and sand from sandbags and dirt as well," said Gorby.

About 4,000 juvenile fish had been released into the pond last year by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The damage and low water level in the pond likely killed many of those fish, though Gorby said she could not provide an exact number.

Four chum salmon are seen swimming in Burnaby's Guichon Creek in late October. Juvenile salmon have been released into Maple Creek’s off-channel pond as part of restoration efforts.
Four chum salmon are seen swimming in Burnaby's Guichon Creek in late October. Juvenile salmon have been released into Maple Creek’s off-channel pond as part of restoration efforts. (Mark Angelo)

Gorby says it's not clear who was responsible for the damage, or why they did it. She said the city has built split-rail cedar fences in strategic locations to block off some of the access to the area.

She says the pandemic has led to an incredibly busy year for the city's trail systems and parks as people are looking for opportunities to access nature.

"However, this kind of sharp uptick in visitors can also create challenges like increases in garbage and litter. It can create parking issues around busy trail heads, and like we've seen in Maple Creek, where we were talking about that damage, it's also led to a lot more trails being created by people who are likely looking to get off the beaten track and avoid meeting others on the trail system," she said.

Gorby said it is important, both for personal safety and ecological safety, to stay on the sanctioned trail.

"We're lucky in Coquitlam to have almost a 100 kilometres of trail through really beautiful and diverse natural areas and parks. With this amount of safe access, there's really no need for people to be cutting their own trails."

Listen to the segment on CBC's On The Coast here: