MOSSOM CREEK: Port Moody hatchery to rise again
Ruth Foster has ridden a roller coaster of emotions since the Mossom Creek Hatchery burned down in December, the fire destroying thousands of fish eggs and smolts, an entire archive of historical documents and thousands of hours of volunteer effort in the process.
At first calm, then devastated at the loss, the hatchery co-founder says she is now elated because of the response from the community and the work to rebuild the 37-year-old facility.
“It’s been here for a long time,” Foster says of the Port Moody hatchery, which is located at the top of a narrow gravel road off Ioco Road and run by the Burrard Inlet Marine Enhancement Society (BIMES) with the aim of educating children and youth about salmon and the environment.
“People have a sense of place, it truly has value,” says the retired high school teacher, which is why she is thrilled that people are so keen to rebuild it.
In the days after the fire, the hatchery’s Facebook page exploded with condolences and offers of support from as far away as Australia and Taiwan. People started sending in photos and articles to rebuild the destroyed archive.
There were even offers of money.
Port Moody Firefighters Union 2399 showed up on Christmas Eve with a $1,500 cheque.
The city of Port Moody offered free meeting space and provided $10,000 to meet immediate needs and a site management trailer for hatchery operations.
Families like the Greens, the Carrieres and students at Pleasantside elementary, showed up with donations and cards.
David Spence and Donna Otto gave $5,000 and other private donations have raised more than $11,000.
“We just felt bad for Mossom Creek,” said Brady Carriere, 8, to explain why he and his brother, Dawson, and Lucas Green, all Anmore elementary students, made and sold elastic bracelets to raise $60.
Other schools chipped in, too: Pleasantside elementary school students raised $71 for the hatchery in a popcorn sale; Moody middle students sent in more than $300; and Centennial secondary students, who have a special bond with the hatchery — it was originally built to support an environmental club in the mid-1970s — also vowed to contribute what they could in volunteer time and effort.
“It was an incredible flood of emails and phone calls over the next couple of days [after the fire],” Foster recalled, “Everyone wanted to help.”
Standing next to Mossom Creek on the gravel pad where the education centre and hatchery once stood, it’s hard to imagine that a community project so long in the making could disappear so quickly.
Little remains: a swimming-pool sized hole where the rearing pond was (It was removed to make way for new construction), some wood, two fish tanks containing smolts that were saved, a shed and, poignantly, the charred remainder of the Mossom Creek Hatchery sign that had been lovingly carved and painted by volunteers and will one day be restored.
Pacing the site surrounded by metal fencing is Patrick Dennett. It’s his job to turn a community vision of rebuilding the facility into a practical building that will once again provide a centre of operations for the hatchery. The two-storey building now in the planning phase will be an environmentally sensitive, fully accessible gathering space with a tree-canopy viewing platform; a pond observation window; a classroom/meeting space; plus a wet lab on the first floor for raising fish.
It was developed with input from BIMES members and Centennial students, and if $1.2 million in donations, grants and in-kind services can be raised, will be built by next spring.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Dennett admits as walks the gravel path to the construction trailer where a heater is on and a kettle is boiling water.
Thankfully, Dennett has an able team to work with.
Tracy Green, an Anmore village councillor, is fundraising co-ordinator. It’s her job to raise more than $1 million in donations, grants and in-kind contributions for the project (nearly $200,000 has already been raised).
Gaetan Royer, a former Port Moody city administrator, is designing the building.
BIMES president Kyle Pilon is on the team, as is George Assaf, a Burnaby fire captain and BIMES member who lives in the area, to name just a few.
“Right now where we are is we’ve got a preliminary design concept prepared by Gaetan Royer. I have to take that and get working drawings done of the concept. I have to go through a process to make sure it fits within our budget,” Dennett explained.
Approximately $400,000 in corporate donations will be needed to finish the building (along with insurance money) but several businesses have already stepped forward and he’s optimistic more will join them.
For example, during the demolition phase of the project, the group was able to recycle 97% per cent of the destroyed building and hatchery, including the metal and burned wood. Dennett credits the success of the project’s initial phase to Pacific Blasting and Demolition, which separated the demolition materials, and Super Save, which assisted the group in establishing a program to minimize demolition waste.
BC Hydro contributed $4,700 and many local businesses are promising to donate everything from construction materials to landscape design.
Is Foster surprised at the outpouring of support so far? As she bends down to dig out a root of a liquorice fern for a reporter to taste, she is thoughtful. Scraping off a bit (but not all ) of the dirt, she hands off a small chunk. Below her, Mossom Creek rumbles and growls like an animal as it makes its way to Port Moody Inlet from its source near Buntzen Lake. A fallen big leaf maple is disintegrating at her feet and the clouds above the tree canopy threaten rain.
She doesn’t answer but says, “It’s a spectacularly beautiful location.”
But she knows it’s not just the beauty of the creek cutting a ravine through the forest that draws people to Mossom — there are many creeks — nor are the peaceful surroundings drawing donations and promises of support.
More likely, she acknowledges, people want to create a place for children, teenagers, students, teachers, working people, moms, dads and retirees to work together, to share a experience of the natural world, where there is coffee and hot chocolate on the boil and baking on the table.
Mossom 1.0 raised a generation of people who care about salmon and protecting the environment. Mossom 2.0 is set to do the same.