On April 24 and 25, the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society took part in a workshop that brought together local politicians, watershed management groups from outside the area, as well as other parties concerned with the health of Cowichan Lake and River.
This workshop was meant to “engage key stakeholders and explore ways to manage Cowichan Lake to protect ecosystem health which will sustain the ecological, social, and economic values for future generations,” says Gerald Thom, president of CLRSS.
Participants spent the first day listening to a morning full of speakers like Ken Ashley and Sarah Evanetz who shared their experience and expertise learned through developing the Shuswap Lake Integrated Planning Process, or SLIPP. To check out what SLIPP has done in the Shuswap, go to their website: slippbc.ca.
“We realized we don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” says Thom, indicating that there are templates or precedents set by others that can help Cowichan Lake stakeholders develop shoreline management strategies.
On the second day of the workshop, participants were placed into groups where they discussed issues, what they had learned through the presentations, and brought forth ideas or developed strategies that would contribute to developing an overall plan for shoreline management of the lake and river.
There were three common themes that arose out of this brainstorming of ideas: local control of the Cowichan Watershed, education of local residents and younger generations, and working with lakefront and riverside property owners to preserve those shorelines that are intact and restore ones that have been disturbed.
David Slade of the Cowichan Watershed Board found the experience to be very informative and positive.
“I guess like so many of these types of things there’s a great deal of optimism and hope for the future,” says Slade. “And I guess lots of very worthwhile causes looking for champions.”
Parker Jefferson of One Cowichan says that he attended a Chinook workshop recently and he feels that between the two workshops ideas have been generated that boil down to practical steps that are doable.
“That one was more people, there was probably 70 people or more, divided into four tables. We spent the time talking about Chinook salmon and all the things that are associated with it like recovery strategies [and] what can we do that is most important and every table was unanimous: we’ve got to get local control of our watershed,” says Jefferson. “Because we know what decisions need to be made but we don’t have the power to make them.”
David Kidd, of the local Retreads hiking group, says that for him the key part of the workshop was the wide range of interested parties. He also added his voice to the many that support giving more control of the Cowichan Watershed to the Cowichan Watershed Board.
“I feel privileged to be here with the kind of expertise and caring that’s here,” adds Jean Atkinson, a member of CLRSS. “We’ve been working on a strategic plan for CLRSS for some time . . . and there is a lot of overlap between this and our own strategic plan.”
“It is important for Timberwest to participate and contribute to these community based workshops,” says Dave Lindsay of Timber West. “As a major landowner, the health of Cowichan Lake and the views of the community regarding the management of water and fish habitat are a key focus for us.”
Town of Lake Cowichan Mayor, Ross Forrest, as well as Coun. Jayne Ingram, also attended the two day workshop. During the concluding moments when participants were gathered to make one final assessment of their progress, Forrest thanked the organizers for the opportunity to participate.
“It’s the people that live here who will be the biggest benefactors of the knowledge created from this process,” says Forrest.
The public will be able to engage in this process at the CLRSS annual general meeting in early June. To stay in touch with local shoreline and watershed issues, check out onecowichan.ca, or go to the CLRSS website at cowichan-lake-stewards.ca.