Signs of Abundance Tour – The information on this page compliments that which appears on the two signs that have been erected at Simms Millennium Park. To go to the map of all the signs in this series click here.

Habitat Improvement

When Simms Millennium Park opened in 2000 it included off channel habitat for fish and other riparian species. This was one of only three off-channel habitats for juvenile salmonids along a three km stretch of the upper ecotone of the K’ómoks Estuary.  It was used by species such as Coho salmon, however, it was not functioning as well as it could be. In order to access the pond habitat, fish had to pass through a long culvert which was perched high and only flowed when the river and/or tide was high. In addition, the pond was a dead-end with no connection back to the river. Fish that accessed the pond habitat were often trapped making them vulnerable to seal predation and in the summer the water became stagnant, too hot and low in oxygen, due to limited circulation.

Installation of the second culvert connecting the channel to the Courtenay Slough.

Over 2017- 2018, the Project Watershed team completed a habitat improvement project. The endeavour included the removal of an old culvert connecting the Courtenay River through the park into an inner pond area.  This culvert was replaced with a larger fish-friendly culvert installed at a lower elevation so that fish will have more access during a variety of tide cycles. In addition another large culvert was installed at the end of the inner pond connect through to the Courtenay Slough.  This installation of the two culverts created a true flow-through channel and has completely changed the hydrology of the area, resulting in improved circulation and flushing which has led to better water quality. Immediately following the changes adult salmon and trout were observed moving through the new culverts and utilizing the channel.

As part of the project some Alder trees had to be removed and the area re-contoured to allow equipment access to the site other non native plants were also removed. These trees and were replaced with conifers and native plant and shrub species.

Volunteers from the community helped salvage fish from the area before the start of construction, and were also on hand to keep the public out of the active work zone during construction and explain the project objectives to those interested.  The K’ómoks First Nation Guardian Watchman and their summer students helped with site preparation and the City of Courtenay Parks staff provided tremendous professional support throughout the project.  Of course the project could not have been brought to fruition without the financial support of the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation.

Habitat Improvement Interactive Map

Hover over the flashing dots with your mouse for further information


This culvert was replaced by a “fish friendly” culvert meaning it was larger in diameter and placed at a lower elevation.


Many native plants, trees and shrubs were planted in and around the areas where work was done. Native plants help stabilize the soil as well as provide food and habitat for native species.


The ponds were deepened and widened to increase the amount of water in the system and create cooler areas.


This culvert was installed so that the channel connects through to the Courtenay Slough. This keeps the water fresher and gives fish an escape route.

Riparian Habitat

riparian ecosystem

A riparian area is the interface between the land and a river or stream. Riparian areas link water to land.  They boarder streams, lakes and wetlands and encompass the trees, shrubs and grasses growing along these water bodies.  As a transition zone between aquatic and terrestrial systems, they usually have characteristics of both.

They provide vegetative cover to help moderate water temperature, provide food, nutrients and organic matter to the stream, stream bank stabilization, and buffer streams from excessive silt and surface run-off pollution.  A wide variety of animals are attracted to these areas including insects, amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds, and mammals and many of these animals depend on these areas to exist. Suitable habitat (food, water, and shelter) is often provided in riparian areas to support these animals which may not occur in surrounding drier areas.

Streams and riparian areas are sensitive to urban development as removal of vegetation, paving near or over them, installation of culverts and pollution degrade the quality of these areas and impede there ability to function. For example, good quality streamside habitat is essential for ensuring healthy fish populations. Protecting riparian areas, while facilitating urban development that embraces high standards of environmental stewardship, is a priority for the government of B.C.  Which is why the province developed the Riparian Areas Regulation (RAR). RAR provides the impetus for local governments to protect riparian areas during residential, commercial and industrial development  in order to protect the heath, productivity and functioning condition of this important area.

For more information on riparian areas click here.

Off Channel Habitat

Off-channel habitats provide lower water velocity, moderated water temperature, and enhanced food availability. They are important because they have been shown to benefit juvenile salmon growth and survival, decrease their competition for food and space, help keep larger predators away and provide important refuge.

The degree to which off-channel habitats are linked to the main channel via surface water connections is generally termed connectivity.  When connectivity increases more aquatic habitat is created.

Native Plants

Riparian areas include the native trees, shrubs and grasses growing alongside water-courses. These native plants provide vegetative cover to help moderate water temperature. In addition, they provide food (organic matter such as leaf, needle and branch litter, and terrestrial invertebrates, which contribute to the stream food web), stabilize stream banks from erosion and prevent excessive silt and surface run-off pollution from entering the water. In terms of fish habitat one of the most important functions of riparian vegetation, is the contribution of large woody debris (LWD), to the stream. Mature trees provide LWD in the form of logs, sticks and branches or other wood that falls into the stream channel. This LWD influences the flow and shape of the stream channel, increases habitat complexity and provides cover for juvenile fish.

Heritage Value

Courtenay River

The Courtenay River is the shortest navigable river the world.  It starts where the Puntledge and Tsolum rivers converge and occupies a prominent central location in the heart of the City of Courtenay.

The Courtenay River is significant for its historic, scientific, and social value, particularly for its historic importance to Courtenay’s early inhabitants and businesses, its biological importance, its unique physical characteristics, and its role in Courtenay’s recreational development.

The heritage value of the Courtenay River lies in its cultural and historical importance to both the Pentlach and K’omoks First Nation’s people who occupied and controlled the territory in and around Courtenay for thousands of years. The remnants of numerous fish traps located throughout the mouth of the Courtenay River and Estuary, one of the largest concentration of inter-tidal fishing structures in North America, attest to the abundance of marine life made available by the Courtenay River and Estuary. The remnants of these aboriginal fish traps are valued as a unique educational opportunity to study sustainable First Nations fishing technologies and culture for all citizens.

The Courtenay River is valued for its important role in Courtenay’s early pioneering development. Thousands of years of natural flooding of the River resulted in cleared and rich alluvial soil which made conditions perfect for agricultural settlement and prompted Courtenay’s first settlers to preempt in the area in 1862. The width and depth of the river facilitated early transportation and business ventures, which is reflected in the pilings and cribbing that still line the River and estuary.

The Courtenay River’s scientific value lies in its biological importance to a variety of species of wildlife, including salmon and migratory birds that winter in the area. It is significant that hundreds of protected Trumpeter Swans winter at the Courtenay River estuary, resulting in the largest concentration of the species anywhere in the world.
The River’s scientific value is also expressed in its physical uniqueness as the River is the shortest navigable river in the world.

The Courtenay River’s social value lies in its central role in the development of Courtenay’s recreational identity which is exemplified by the River’s prominent and accessible location through the heart of the City.

Source: City of Courtenay Planning Department

Courtenay River Slide Show

Simms Millennium Park

Simms Millennium Park is a municipally-owned 9.0 acre park located off the Old Island Highway directly across from Lewis Park and is naturally bounded by the Courtenay River to the south and Courtenay River Slough to the East and North.

The significance of Simms Millennium Park lies in its historical, scientific, aesthetic, and social value, particularly for its role during the Second World War, its association with important Courtenay businesses, its design, its situation in a riparian zone and its ongoing use as a community park.

Simms Millennium Park is valued for its role played in the defense of the West Coast of Vancouver Island and in training for the D-Day landings on the beaches in Europe during World War Two. From 1942 to 1944, the Courtenay River Slough was used to moor the several assault craft used in Combined Operations training and was only one of two sites of its kind in Canada. Currently used as a government dock, the Courtenay Slough reflects the presence of the federal government in the City.

Simms Millennium Park has an historical relationship with two noteworthy businesses that occupied the site, including Inkster’s Lumber, which operated from 1939 to 1975, and the Brackman and Kerr Milling Company, which operated on the site from 1917 to 1958. Both businesses were situated facing the Courtenay River, highlighting the importance of the river as a transportation corridor for Courtenay’s economy.

Simms Millennium Park is associated with Charles Simms, the initial owner of the majority of the current park property. Simms, a prominent watchmaker, jeweller and local businessman, operated a high-traffic wharf on the site and was actively involved in civic affairs, serving three terms as Courtenay mayor between 1921 and 1942.

Flanked on two sides of water, Simms Millennium Park scientific value lies in its situation in a riparian zone. The grouping of mature trees, shrubbery, grasses and water around the park provide an immensely important habitat to a variety of wildlife, ranging from numerous species of salmon that spawn in the area, to birds and small mammals. It is significant that the park is uniquely configured to minimize the impact on this sensitive area, while enabling the public to view the wildlife that reside in their natural surroundings.

The aesthetic value of Simms Millennium Park lies in its exceptional design and setting. Constructed as a promenade park, it features a network of trails which provide views of the Courtenay River and slough. It is notable that the park consists of heavily forested areas, and features a variety of mature and recently planted deciduous and conifer trees. The park is important for its educational value seen in the unique and interactive paleo-garden designed by local paleontologists, and which features a variety of prehistoric plant species and fossils.

The social value of Simms Millennium Park is vested in its on-going use as a highly accessible community park and is valued as a cornerstone of the City of Courtenay’s Park program.

Source: City of Courtenay Planning Department

What can I do to help?

Educate Yourself and Others

If you should come across any stream hosting a salmon run, please do not disturb or harass the fish or wildlife.  These fish are a precious resource. The spawners are our assurance that salmon will frequent the stream for generations to come.

Other tips:

  • Keep pets away from streams. Animal waste is polluting. Pets entering streams can erode stream banks and cause siltation; their activity also disturbs wildlife and salmon living in streams.
  • Keep litter and trash out of streams. Besides being unsightly, trash will collect into debris jams and block water flow. Limit in-stream cleanup activity to the summer months.
  • If you see any situation that may compromise the health of a stream contact the 24 hr Provincial Emergency Program at 1-800-663-3456.


We are often looking for extra hands to help with stewardship projects – from planting to invasive removal to education.  To volunteer fill out our volunteer form we will contact you with dates and times our activities occur.


Use the button below to make a financial contribution to Project Watershed so that we can continue our stewardship work.