Motorists passing through Lake Cowichan this week may notice two new additions to the car bridge just past Central Park.
On Saturday, the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society installed signs at both ends of the bridge, recognizing the Cowichan River as a sensitive trout and salmon habitat, and as a heritage river. The signs, which feature the now iconic symbol of a yellow fish, will be familiar to many; there are similar signs posted at creeks and river crossings throughout the Cowichan Lake area.
CLRSS has been installing these signs since 2011. The initiative started with Bill Gibson, George de Lure and the late Gerald Thom who received funding from the Pacific Salmon Foundation for this work. Over the years funds have also been contributed by the Town of Lake Cowichan, the CVRD and the CLRSS itself. TimberWest has also been a helpful supporter of the society’s work through its contributions to the Pacific Salmon Foundation.
There are now close to 50 signs around the lake featuring creek names with the “trout and salmon habitat” designation and the yellow fish graphic.
“It’s really important because it [creates] public awareness,” said Gibson. “I don’t think most people realize the importance of fisheries to this area. And in fact, there’s over 80 named creeks feeding Cowichan Lake that have fish in them.”
Gibson said they hope that with these latest two signs, which are larger than the standard ones elsewhere at the lake, people will appreciate the Cowichan River and its status as one of only three official heritage rivers in British Columbia. (The other two being the Fraser and the Kicking Horse.)
“We want to stress that this is a heritage river,” said Gibson. “It doesn’t get much attention for that.”
The Cowichan River in Lake Cowichan is the last main crossing that CLRSS is marking. These signs going up cap off the five-year signage project the society has been engaged in.
CLRSS chairman Gordon Davidson said most tourists passing through town are unaware of the significance the Cowichan River or its heritage status.
“Tourists that drive through this town… have no idea what they’re driving over,” he said. “So we thought that should be acknowledged.”
He said they hope that this increased awareness, especially among tourists going tubing on the river, will mean less garbage gets dumped in or near the waterway. Fostering a respect for the river is one of CLRSS’s chief mandates, he added.
While the society’s bigger public activities, such as riparian tours and river clean-ups, take place during the spring and summer, CLRSS continues to be busy throughout the fall and winter.
Society members now focus on report-writing, funding applications and continuing to educate property owners on riparian rules and regulations.
Sign upkeep is also an important task that keeps members busy in the off season.
“We go around and trim vegetation so you can see [the signs], otherwise Mother Nature takes over,” said de Lure