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Citizen science takes off after wildfire at this Coquitlam park

Visitors to Minnekhada Regional Park in Coquitlam are snapping photos to study the fire recovery since Oct. 1, 2022.

About six months after a human-caused fire swept through the High Knoll area of Coquitlam’s Minnekhada Regional Park in October 2022, a couple of signs sprouted.

The non-profit park association and Metro Vancouver, which operates the eastern Tri-City park, installed the photo stations for observers to study the fire recovery.

The signs at the base of High Knoll and along Fern Trail ask hikers to snap photos of the burned sites and upload them to Twitter or Instagram via #MINfire01 or #MINfire02.

And, to date, the citizen science project that started in the spring of 2023 has yielded some fascinating images, showing how the ground has shifted with new plant life.

“We want to have an opportunity to observe the regeneration of nature,” Celia DeLuca, chairperson of the Minnekhada Park Association board, told the Tri-City News.

The dozens of posts uploaded lay out the progression: Early photos reveal the scorched earth, charred wood and down trees while newer images show greenery around the ruins.

DeLuca said her association hopes to organize the pictures into a time lapse to uncover the dramatic change since Oct. 1, 2022; that roll will be released in a year or so. This summer, the group will also host events to tie in with the project.

Still, besides documenting the regrowth, the citizen science initiative also is a good way to remind park visitors about wildfires and how fast they can spread, she said. Hikers can start a blaze innocently by tossing a cigarette, forgetting sunglasses at a rest area or dropping a water bottle, of which the reflection can also spark a fire.

“We want to bring that awareness up,” she said, noting anyone who sees smoke or fire in the park should call 911. “We want to appreciate Mother Nature but also be safe.”

As for the 358 native plants that park volunteers and Metro staff put into the ground at and around High Knoll last fall, they’re helping to encourage plant and wildlife back, she said. Funding for the salal, huckleberry and other plants came from donations to the Metro Vancouver Regional Park Foundation, previously the Pacific Parklands Foundation.

Minnekhada Regional Park is located at 4000 Quarry Rd. in Coquitlam. To volunteer with the Minnekhada Park Association’s stewardship programs, you can email [email protected].