Project Watershed is working towards securing and restoring Kus-kus-sum, the former Fields Sawmill site, in the K’ómoks Estuary. If you are unfamiliar with the Fields Saw Mill the site is the large cement area that runs along Comox Road on the south side of the 17th street bridge, across from Locals Restaurant. The original salt marsh that existed on the site was filled in, paved over, and the foreshore was artificially armored with 440 meters of steel cladded retaining wall. This area acts as a “pinch point” whereby salmon stocks (both out-migrating juveniles and returning spawners) and other fish species are easily trapped and preyed upon by seals. It also provides very little to no habitat for the large number of resident and migratory birds and other species that use the K’ómoks Estuary.
Our vision is to secure the property as a park and restore it. Restoration would include removing the cement and any contaminated soils as well as regrading the site so that it slopes down from the highway to the water’s edge. Wetland habitat would be reestablished by revegetating the area with native species, creating flow through channels and detention ponds. The site would also be connected with Hollyhock Marsh so that they can function together to provide important benefits to humans and wildlife. Walkways, viewing platforms and interpretive signage would be added to provide recreational and educational opportunities and could connect to the popular Courtenay Riverway and Airpark Walk. For a better look at this restoration check out the video at the end of this post.
One of our first steps towards this goal was to compile the necessary background information and studies, identify information gaps and personnel requirements and meet with the relevant stakeholders and experts leading up to the development of a complete land securement strategy and preliminary restoration prescription for the site. Thanks to BC Hydro’s Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program Project Watershed received $11,015.85 to do just that.
Over the past year we have carried out on-site surveys and and ground truthing with Professional Surveyors, Engineers, and Biologist to look at the feasibility of our ideas and create preliminary action plans. We have discussed our plans with City and Regional District Engineers and City Council. We have also been in communication with Interfor and other stakeholders to investigate the options for acquiring the property. While we still have to negotiate the acquisition of the property before any work can begin – we now have a plan for moving forward.