it all Began!
WBT Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia (WBT) was founded in 1993 by Dr. Richard C. Beard and Patricia M. Banning-Lover - but
many years before this could occur a Great Campaign was fought to save the area
from development. Plans for a marina and shopping area – a sort of mini
Lonsdale Quay – could have easily come about but for the heroic efforts by many
who recognized significant, existing wildlife values.
As Wild Bird Trust
always points out – we take absolutely no credit or accolades for the amazing
success of the Great Campaign – we simply were not here – we did not exist!
conclusion of the Great Campaign saw campaigner Stephen Partington decorated
for his passionate contributions and the land gifted for conservation by
PortMetroVancouver and the District of North Vancouver.
Environment Canada now chose
the site to build their Pacific Environmental Science Centre (PESC).
entered into a 48 yr. Memorandum of Understanding with PortMetroVancouver (then
Vancouver Port Authority) which named them as Site Managers. As is customary during the period of an
Environment Canada presence the land would now be regarded as federal land. The
Environment Canada MOU terminates on March 31st 2041.
The new Environment
Canada building, its parking and landscaped areas would take up only a small portion
on the north east corner, the rest of the site would become land managed and
operated for conservation and public enjoyment.
Now the hunt began for
a society to take on this “concept of operation” under a formal license. The task was offered to several organizations
and societies but none were interested in facing the enormous challenges – let
alone the expense!
The land had been saved
but no plan existed for “next steps”.
Although it was not their responsibility to choose a group to manage and
operate the site, the Maplewood Committee was now very worried. As has been said many times by Kevin Bell
(one of the principal campaigners and Maplewood Committee Member) “it’s a good
thing you and Richard came along – because we were all so tired!”
In February 1992, on a
little stone terrace in the picturesque town of Taxco, Mexico a decision was
made by Richard and Patricia to found an organization specifically with the
newly-saved area in mind. This decision would
take time, expense and much thought to morph into the “finished product” – but
with confidence and determination the idea became a reality when WBT Wild Bird
Trust of British Columbia became incorporated on November 4th
1993. The Trust regards this date as
Wild Bird Trust’s “birthday”.
Pre and post the
decision to form a brand new society was discussed in meetings with the
Maplewood Committee. Their very positive
reaction encouraged Richard and Patricia to feel that the projection could be a
success. But there were a few stumbling
blocks – principally, no seed money existed!
Fundraising began at
the very basic level of picking cans and bottles out of the ditches while Richard and Patricia walked their German
Shepherd Daisy – somehow the recycling cents turned into dollars!
In order to give the
emerging Society the focus it would require, Richard a dental surgeon, gave up
practicing for five years becoming the first WBT President and fundraiser.
In a terrific leap of
faith, since no formal documents with the officials existed, volunteer work
began on site in earnest as early as 1992.
The first order of business when
the Trust arrived was a major clean up.
In the pre-boomed era
the intertidal areas were littered with logs and debris – twice a day the tide
would smash these heavy items up and down damaging existing and emerging
vegetation. Once clean up was complete these areas were boomed to prevent it
happening again and the surfaces began to heal and recover.
What was not apparent
at that time was the attractive pastoral stretches of waving green vegetation
on the DNV portions of the property contained many invasive plants – such as
Japanese Knotweed was
originally present on the DNV sections and has spread dramatically over two
decades. It has escaped from shady
areas, crept under the Port Fence – and encouraged by sunlight approaches the
north east corner of PESC.
Since the Trust is the
Operator of the site decisions on how and when to address these invasive
species, which may require mechanical removal and/or specialized treatment,
will be made by Landowners PortMetroVancouver and the District of North
Vancouver together with the official Manager of the site Environment
Canada. It is their task, not WBT’s to
evaluate best management practices, treatment timing and cost sharing.
Historically, the site
had also been used as a “dumping ground” for unwanted household items – if you
were renovating your kitchen or bathroom guess where you would discard your old
Amazingly, clean up was
completed, trails were built on the east side and WBT’s Grand Opening occurred
on Saturday, September 16th 2015 under hot and sunny skies. The event was held in tents. The little piece of land near the Meet and
Greet next to the Barge Channel hosted one large tent with a raised platform,
podium and microphones. Hundreds of chairs were set up in the car-park with
another large tent which housed the cake and beverages.
Richard Beard introduced special guests Robert Bateman (our patron) and Rick
Hansen and dignitaries from Environment Canada, PortMetroVancouver, District of
North Vancouver. Some very warm words
of encouragement were expressed.
Events Coordinator Patricia M. Banning-Lover asked Kevin Bell and Ray Eagle to
represent the Maplewood Committee/Great Campaign Era by taking part in the
green ribbon cutting ceremony – Ray and Kevin offered the scissors with their
dangling strands of gold and green ribbons.
Acknowledgment for the
site and the Co-founders Dr. Richard C. Beard and Patricia M. Banning-Lover came
in the form of a federal “Certificate of Environmental Stewardship” (Local
Hero) which was awarded by Environment Canada to them individually at the
Dedication of the Freshwater Marsh on May 10th 1997.
The Conservation Area at Maplewood Flats is a formerly degraded
industrial site transformed by the Trust into the North Shore’s first wildlife
sanctuary. To the east lies the largest
remaining fragment of a mudflat system which once stretched as far as First
Narrows Bridge (Lions Gate Bridge). To
the west is the premier example of salt marsh in Burrard Inlet.
Throughout its industrial era the area wore many faces and looked very
different. Most of the areas which you
know so well were once great stretches of mudflat!
A transformation of a very unusual kind took place when the West End of
Vancouver was developed – reflecting the thinking of the day which dismissed
these intertidal areas as having little or no value – the decision
makers arranged for all the excavation material to be transported to the site
and dumped on the mudflats!
This explains why we have remnants of garden plants and even an Apricot
Tree – it all came in with the fill!
Over time we have eradicated patches of day lilies and lamium but still
struggle with the ongoing effects of old-fashioned favourites like English
Holly, English Ivy and periwinkle which have now fallen out of favour because
of their invasive characteristics..
It is hard to imagine that Environment Canada’s Pacific Environmental
Science Centre, the Parking Lot, our little Meet and Greet Office, the Compound
with its major bird feeding station and the nursery, the trails, the forested
areas, Corrigan Nature House etc., all once looked very different.
History also recalls an Automotive Body Shop on the Concrete Pad, log
booms tied to pilings and operations by Deeks McBride Sand and Gravel
The Ken Lum replicas of Squatters’ Shacks which you see near the Meet and
Greet are an artistic salute to those who lived on the mudflats – look for the
explanatory text at the Viewing Site near the WBT’s Meet and Greet Office.
So as you can see the site has worn many faces – all had impact – all
left their mark.