MOSSOM CREEK: Retired Port Moody architect gives gift of understanding

Retired architect Ron Simpson and Mossom Creek hatchery volunteer and educator Ruth Foster show Anmore students a topographical map built by Simpson to explain how the creek fits into the larger scheme of things. - DIANE STRANDBERG/THE TRI-CITY NEWS
Retired architect Ron Simpson and Mossom Creek hatchery volunteer and educator Ruth Foster show Anmore students a topographical map built by Simpson to explain how the creek fits into the larger scheme of things.

Early space flight taught humans more about their own planet than it did about the stars, with those stunning photos of Earth shot from above showing the fragility of our home.

A Port Moody retired architect is trying to do the same — but closer to the ground.

Ron Simpson has created a detailed three dimensional topographical map of the Mossom Creek watershed that is being used as an educational tool to explain how the creek fits in to the area and how development in Port Moody and Anmore is affecting the local environment.

The wood-frame map made of strips of MDF to create the hilly topography of Eagle Mountain is currently housed at Anmore elementary school and students love to run their hands along its contours. But by next spring, it will have a new home at the rebuilt Mossom Creek Hatchery and Simpson couldn’t be happier.

“I feel strongly that these maps can build a deeper understanding,” said Simpson, who said the  current watershed map replaces an earlier version he built that was destroyed by the December blaze that also flattened the hatchery.

This newest one, updated with details from Google Earth and The Atlas of Canada, is an improvement on the original, he said, and will help educate school children and adults about the creek’s importance to the area and the salmon.

“They obviously enjoyed it,”  Simpson said of the original, “and I thought, why not build another?”

Using his Bosch jigsaw, Simpson cut the pieces of MDF and layered them, creating a structure that is hollow underneath but shows how the creek travels from a source near Buntzen Lake all the way to the Port Moody Inlet. It was a labour of love for Simpson, who has built similar 3D watershed maps for the Coquitlam River, Pitt River, Cultus Lake, and other important B.C. creeks and rivers.

But during his research for the project, Simpson — a Brit who retired to Canada and embarked on a volunteer career designing hatchery buildings for local watershed groups — found something that confirmed his earlier concerns about development in the area. When he was comparing the new map with the original, he found there were some changes, most notably the increase in housing in Anmore and the enlargement of the delta at the creek base in the Port Moody inlet.

He suspects silt from construction travelled downstream, a supposition that was corroborated anecdotally by longtime resident Trudy Norton, who was part of recent hatchery field trip for Anmore students. Norton, who lives near the inlet, said there is much more sand there now than there was in the past. “Now, you can walk on it without sinking in,” she said.

Other notable features of the map include the former Ioco refinery as well as Buntzen and Sasamat lakes and other creeks in the area.

Ruth Foster, a retired Centennial teacher and one of the hatchery’s founders, promises this latest map will have a prominent place in the new hatchery because it’s so important for educating the next generation of streamkeepers.

“For these children, it’s magical,” she said. “They like to figure out where they live and where the creek starts, and they begin to appreciate where the watershed is.”


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