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Stream daylighting: Sam's dream comes true

Updated: Jun 21, 2022

The lost streams of Vancouver (my home city) have captured imaginations for years – at least for those who are aware of these once vibrant waterways. Looking at the urban landscape, it’s hard to imagine salmon-bearing streams where houses and other buildings now lock arms, claiming all the space.

According to the City of Vancouver website, “Vancouver once had a vast network of natural streams and creeks. As the city developed and grew, many streams were buried under pipes, filled in, or diverted.”

These lost streams inspired me to write the first book in my Under-Under World series, Water. And I’m happy to say that today, there is a big push for daylighting streams. (For a great overview of Vancouver’s lost streams – including a map of where the streams once flowed – check out this Fraser Riverkeeper article.)

I first got interested in this topic 15 years ago when I learned that a friend was dealing with chronic basement flooding. Another neighbour explained that the cause for this flooding was a network of underground streams, buried beneath the city’s development. I shared this information with my friend Liz, an environmental science whiz. She gave me a scooter tour of Vancouver’s streams, showing me the ones that were in the process of being daylighted and others – once mighty salmon-bearing streams – that were still lost. No fishing pun intended, but I was hooked. The idea that there was a world underneath the world fascinated me.

This germ of an idea evolved into my book. I created a young protagonist – Sam – who, like me, wanted to see fresh, clean water instead of sad, muddy puddles. She found herself in a world that existed under our feet. And as part of her Under-Under adventure, Sam encounters fish who mourn the loss of their freshwater streams – with no place to spawn before they die.

Sketch of Vancouver and its lost streams
Sketch of Vancouver and its lost streams

In recent years, the City of Vancouver has worked with volunteers to restore a number of Vancouver streams. The one I am particularly excited about is Tatlow stream – because this is the very stream that piqued my interest in the first place and led to the Secrets of the Under-Under World series.

The city plans to “create an ecologically diverse stream corridor in Tatlow and Volunteer parks… restore and enhance riparian and shoreline habitat for birds and other wildlife… and improve rainwater management.”

Recently, I had a chance to see the City’s progress. On my way to the beach immediately behind Volunteer Park, I noticed City personnel digging in the park. Curious, I asked what they were doing – and was told that they were conducting an archaeological study to make sure there were no issues that would get in the way of daylighting the stream. If all was good, they said, the stream could be restored as early as next summer.

The daylighting of streams is of course just one small step toward remediating the damage to our planet. But this kind of action is evidence that we can turn the corner, we can stop harming the Earth and start repairing it instead – if we want to. Sam believes that we can.

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