This project will result in closures to the treed area on the west side of the park from July 5th to 7th and for the entire month of August. The Rotary Pavilion, BBQ area, washrooms, and trail behind the pavilion will remain accessible. There will be construction noise caused by the project, as well as temporary impacts to parking.

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Area of Closure

July 5-7

July 31 to August 30

As part of the project, invasive plants in the area, such as blackberry, will be removed. Some Alder trees will also need to be removed for machine access. Removing these trees will occur between July 5-7th, and during this time the treed area will be closed. The alders will be replaced with native conifers in the fall. 

Dan Bowen, Project Watershed’s Technical Director, said that while crews will do their best to limit disruption to park visitors, some impacts will be unavoidable. “Project Watershed recognizes that this construction project, in Simms Park during the summer, is an inconvenience to the public,” he noted. “We hope that everyone will have patience with us as we work to improve this local community asset for fish and wildlife.” Project Watershed staff and volunteers will be on site to direct pedestrians and provide information on the project.

Volunteers Needed!

If you are interested in volunteering on this project please sign up. We will need help fish fry and plant salvaging, dewatering the site, sandbagging, and informing the public about what we are doing during the project. Refreshments and light snacks will be available for volunteers.

Project Details

Project Watershed will be working in Simms Millennium Park this summer to improve the habitat in the area for fish and other wildlife.  The Simms side channel is used by species such as Coho salmon, however it is not functioning as well as it could be. In order to access the pond habitat, fish must pass through a long culvert which is perched high and only flows when the river and/or tide is high, thereby limiting access. In addition, the pond is a dead-end with no connection back to the river. Fish that access the pond habitat are often trapped, and in the summer the water becomes stagnant due to limited circulation.

You may have noticed Project Watershed staff, volunteers and contractors measuring, photographing and generally poking around in the Simms Park area over the past year. We were carrying out a seed project to develop a plan for the redesign of the Simms Park side channel habitat.

A seed project is done to further investigate a proposed project to determine the effects the project may have and create a comprehensive project plan for the area. The Seed Project was funded by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP). The FWCP is a partnership between BC Hydro, the Province of B.C., Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nations and public stakeholders to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife impacted by the construction of BC Hydro dams.

We have just finished developing this plan (or as we refer to it restoration prescription) and have received funding from the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Program (RFCPP), Habitat Conservation Trust Fund (HCTF) and FWCP. RFCPP is a Fisheries and Oceans Canada program which provides funding to restore, rebuild and rehabilitate recreational fisheries habitat, we are very grateful for their support.  The City of Courtenay is providing in kind support for this project.

Background

Simms Park has been shown to have one of the highest numbers of juvenile trout and salmon over the summer months, demonstrating that it is a key habitat area. This area of off-channel habitat is located early in the out migration route for chinook and coho fry and smolts.

Off-channel habitat has been shown to benefit juvenile salmon growth and survival by:

  • decreasing their competition for food and space
  • keeping larger predators away
  • providing important refuge
  • being excellent nurseries – providing conditions favorable for growth, such as lower water velocity, moderated water temperature, and enhanced food availability

The original construction of fish habitat at this site was completed in 2000 but it did not provide for optimal fish accessibility or connectivity to the Courtenay River.

Issues with the site:

  • the channel is a dead end for salmon (the pipe connecting the channel to the river is too small)
  • the habitat offers little complexity
  • there is inadequate food production
  • the culvert is not ‘fish friendly’ (it is very long and narrow) and is too high so it only flows at very high tide levels
  • in summer the water temperatures get too high and the oxygen concentrations too low
  • there are too many alders – they shade out other vegetation, limit riparian diversity, and drop excessive leaves in autumn with the potential of increasing biological oxygen demand in the slow moving water
  • patches of invasive plant species are established and increasing in size

Our Proposal

simms_overview

We propose to remove the current culvert and replace it with a larger ‘fish friendly’ one installed at a lower elevation. We will also install a pedestrian bridge or another culvert on the opposite side of the pond to connect it back to the river through the slough; creating a new flow through channel. This design concept has been approved by the City of Courtenay and other relevant stakeholders.

We will engage in riparian restoration as part of the project – invasive species will be removed and replaced with native species. Alders will be taken out in some areas for equipment access, and replanted with native conifers. We will add complexity to the off-channel area by deepening areas of the pond, adding rock and large woody debris and building sedge benches. Read more…

Benefits

Chum, chinook and coho will all benefit from this project through increased access to off-channel refuge and high quality rearing habitat. Trout will also benefit from habitat improvements, as they occupy similar habitats as chinook and coho.

This project will:

  • allow more circulation through the site and improve water quality – decrease temperatures and increase oxygen
  • lower the elevations so more habitat is wetted for longer periods of time, and more habitat will be exposed to a variety of tidal cycles
  • increase the complexity of the habitat so that there will be greater forage opportunities for fish
  • provide more access, connectivity, refuge and escape routes to salmon and trout from seal predation (seal predation of both juveniles and adult salmonids is a large problem in the K’ómoks Estuary)

Since the location of this project is in a high use public park with high visibility this will be a great opportunity for education, and community stewardship.

If you would like to contribute to this project and others like this please select one of the options below. Your contribution is appreciated and will make a difference.