Mission Creek Restoration Initiative (MCRI)

The Mission Creek Restoration Initiative (MCRI) is cross-jurisdictional group that has come together with the broad goal of improving the environmental values of Mission Creek and its riparian lands. The MCRI enjoys the support and active participation from First Nations, local government, environmental agencies, community groups and individuals. This MCRI work has already demonstrated the value of collaboration in purchasing riparian lands, facilitating habitat restoration, funding scientific survey work and more – all of this to help restore Kokanee stocks, provide community flood protection, and to improve habitat for wildlife and species at risk.

The Central Okanagan Land Trust (COLT) has been a contributing member of the MCRI from the outset, and since 2015 we have played a key role is securing grant funding and other community donations in order to move the project forward. Part of that work turned around the establishment of a set-back dike of more than 500M. This work helps provide flood protection, allowed for the re-establishment of side channels that are used by spawning Kokanee, rainbow trout and other fish species, and it also strengthens the overall health of the Mission Creek riparian lands.

With the purchase of these lands by the Regional District Central Okanagan and the City of Kelowna, the Central Okanagan Land Trust worked with the City of Kelowna to establish a Conservation Covenant on the dike set-back lands. This covenant forms part of the City’s and the Regional District’s commitment to stabilizing and improving the Mission Creek function as a critical wildlife corridor and community amenity in the area’s rapidly densifying landscape.

COLT continues to work with its MCRI partners to monitor and improve the health of these lands.

Munson Pond Park

In 2014, the City of Kelowna approached the Central Okanagan Land Trust (COLT) with a request to work together on establishing a Conservation Covenant on a portion of the 9.82 ha Munson Pond Park. The goal was to establish a work plan that would help re-naturalize the area in order to strengthen the environmental values of the land.

Munson Pond began its life as a gravel pit that operated for about 5 years in the early 1960s. When it was abandoned, the area’s high water table quickly filled the pit. Since then, the site has become a favoured site for bird watching and a wonderful, quiet parkland retreat for visitors.

The goals of COLT’s initial project included the construction of a perimeter trail with two viewing platforms. In addition, the plans called for the placement of interpretive signage at various locations along the trail in order to build a wider public appreciation of and respect for the natural assets of the park and pond.

As the plan began to take shape, COLT made several successful applications for funding to support its efforts. At the same time, we were grateful to receive the help of a number of individuals, community groups and businesses to do the actual work of weeding, planting, and general site clean up to get the park ready.

The result is small but important ecological jewel that forms part of a scattered network of wetlands that provide important habitat for both flora and fauna – including some species at risk. It is also an important site for migratory birds.

The Okanagan Valley has lost well more than half of its low-lying wetlands to agricultural and urban development, and COLT’s work with the City of Kelowna demonstrates a tangible commitment to improving the area’s wetland inventory by quality and in number.

Rose Valley Pond

The first project COLT was involved in was the acquisition of a lot that included part of Rose Valley Pond, located adjacent to Rose Valley Elementary School in West Kelowna which was completed in 1992. The pond is favoured habitat for both yellow-headed and red-winged blackbirds, as well as many other marsh and aquatic species, and it was felt it would make an ideal outdoor classroom.

The developer agreed in 1991 to hold the .54-hectare property without interest for one year, and see if the community could come up with $65,000 to purchase it.

Students rallied around with ‘Save our Pond’ signs and t-shirts with the yellow-headed blackbird printed on them were sold to raise funds. Neighbours, parents, teachers and other groups came on board to help raise the needed funds and the developer reduced the price by $5,000. In the end, the lot was purchased with donated funds, including a $5,000 grant from COLT, and $20,000 from the Nature Trust of B.C., which holds title to the lot.

Because of the grassroots effort to conserve the pond, the Regional District asked the province to add the remainder of the pond to the park along with adjacent property between the pond and Rose Valley Reservoir, over a hill to the west from it, and a lease was entered into that allowed the park around the pond to be expanded to 245 hectares. That lease expires in 2016, but it has been renewed in the past when it expired.

Lot 502   Okanagan Mountain Park

In 1992, B.C. Parks was concerned about development of a privately-owned, 250-acre waterfront lot within Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park, across the lake from Peachland, because of the habitat disturbance that would result from its development. Acquisition of Lot 502 was also strongly supported by the Regional District, and eventually a property transfer was arranged that included Crown-owned property along Highway 97 known as Goat’s Peak.

To verify the community’s commitment, COLT provided $25,000 in 2000 toward the costs to acquire the property. In a complicated arrangement between the province and the landowner, three small Crown-owned parcels of land in the region (including Goat’s Peak in West Kelowna), along with funds from Forest Renewal B.C., the Okanagan Similkameen Parks Society and COLT, plus a gift of $69,000 by the owners deducted from the appraised value, were used to purchase Lot 502.

Thomson Marsh

In 1990, Gifford and Brenda Thomson and Ken and Dorothy Thomson decided they wanted to preserve a sanctuary of land surrounding Thomson Brook where it flowed through a portion of their Gordon Road farm which they were selling to the City of Kelowna for a community recreation facility.

They wished to ensure that wetland habitat was preserved undisturbed, for birds and wildlife, in perpetuity. They had a long-time involvement in the Central Okanagan Naturalists’ Club and Brenda was the first President of the Friends of Mission Creek who initiated the Mission Creek Greenway project. She was also a COLT director for a short time.

In 1993, the family made a donation of 4.5 acres to the Trust when the land was sold to the city, but the specific site was not determined until work on the land was complete. In the interim, a receipt was issued by the City, with the idea that the sanctuary would be transferred to COLT when the boundaries were identified. In the end, in lieu of ownership, COLT holds a ‘no disturb’ preservation covenant on the property that was agreed on with the city in 2005.

Today, the watercourse through the property takes up more than the original acreage and the whole length of Thomson Brook is a sanctuary, in addition to the wetland. Adjacent to Thomson Marshes, the City has created an arboretum with a walkway between the access road for the Capital News Centre recreation complex and the waterway and wetland. COLT conducts annual inspections of the sanctuary to ensure the conditions from the original baseline inventory prepared by Biologist Nicole Thomas in September, 2004 are maintained.

Rotary Marsh

Rotary Marshes at Brandt Creek

At the instigation of Rotary Club of Kelowna members, John Woodworth and Art Hughes-Games, the club proposed in March, 1995 that the City embark on a foreshore restoration project at the mouth of Brandt Creek in the City’s downtown area.

Before pioneer settlement in the area, Kelowna’s foreshore was primarily marshlands and the vision was to provide visitors and residents a taste of how it used to be, while restoring the area to more-valuable habitat for fish and wildlife, as a sanctuary that people could visit. In the end, the Rotary Club committed some $200,000 in services of members and funding to the project. The Central Okanagan Naturalists’ Club was also a strong supporter and a contributor to the project.

COLT contributed funds toward a professional study to determine the complexity and feasibility of the 1.8 hectare project, as a first step. By 2001, COLT had contributed an additional $9,600, much of which went to signs interpreting the marsh for visitors. Donations totaling a further $5,100 were received by COLT toward the project.

Today, it is a city park with a boardwalk through it for people, and amenities to encourage waterbirds, including ospreys, to make their homes there. It has become an extremely popular walking area for people as well, with hundreds visiting it daily.

Benvoulin Woods

Long before establishment of the popular Mission Creek Greenway, that meandering creek was straightened and diked to prevent its seasonal inundation of adjacent properties. Much of the greenway uses those dikes.

In the 1990s the Friends of Mission Creek recognized the importance of preserving portions of the creek’s original course and asked the City of Kelowna to purchase the Benvoulin Woods from Esther Demofsky. Subsequently, about 20 per cent of the property was subdivided off for use as part of the greenway. Her conditions for sale of her property were that the Benvoulin Woods would remain undisturbed in perpetuity and that the City not own that property.

So, the City purchased the whole property in 1998 but transferred the Benvoulin Woods section to COLT, which had been named as a partner in the greenway project for just such a purpose.
She also donated $25,000 of the purchase price back to the city, and COLT leased the property to the Regional District to manage as a sanctuary for eagles, herons and other wildlife.

A baseline inventory of the property was prepared in August 2004 by Biologist, Nicole Thomas. It forms the basis for annual inspections by COLT to ensure it is preserved as undisturbed habitat.

Haase Pond

COLT contributed $10,000 toward purchase of the Haase property in the Rutland area of Kelowna in 1996, along with $5,000 from an anonymous donor. Along with funds from the Okanagan Region Wildlife Heritage Fund Society, City of Kelowna and Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Regional District purchased the property, and agreed to hold it as a wildlife sanctuary in perpetuity. The property is part of the second phase of the Mission Creek Greenway.

Robert Lake

Although normally lakes are provincially-owned, Robert Lake in the Glenmore area of Kelowna is actually owned by the property owners around it, with each owning a portion of the lake that abuts their land. It’s believed this is because the lake occasionally dries up. However, it is unique habitat for wildlife, particularly birds, and it is a popular spots from birders, both local ones, and visitors to the area.

Gellatly Nut Farm

In 2000, COLT donated $5,000 toward the purchase of the Gellatly Nut Farm in West Kelowna to help the Regional District to purchase the property for a park – in part for the extensive foreshore for recreation and in part due to the historic values of the property.

Johns Family Nature Conservancy Regional Park

From the early days of the Central Okanagan Land Trust, brother and sister Alf and Nancy Johns had announced that they wished to maintain the ecological diversity of their 800-acre property on Kelowna’s south slopes in its natural state in perpetuity. To do that, they decided to donate the land to COLT to ensure it was maintained for their community, as land for wildlife, after they were gone.

Nancy passed away in 2002 and Alf continued to live on the land until his death in 2011, donating 160 acres of the land to the trust in 2002 and 80 acres in each of 2003 and 2004. The Central Okanagan Regional District agreed to lease the property as future parkland, with the understanding that their leasehold rights, and news of the gift, would be deferred until Alf’s death.

Part of that agreement states that the Johns’ wishes for the property’s habitat to be protected for wildlife, with limited public access, will be respected, with COLT continuing as property-owner to ensure that is carried out.

In 2003, the Okanagan Mountain Park Wildfire severely scorched portions of the 800 acres, so some of the timber was harvested, with the proceeds going towards replanting and fencing the property. In addition, Tree Canada donated $5,000 towards trees to help in the replanting, as much of the natural regeneration was curtailed by the heat of the fire, which burned the seeds.

Biologist Nicole Thomas prepared a baseline inventory of the property’s natural features in October, 2004 and members of COLT conduct annual inspections to ensure they are protected. In the spring of 2013, an inventory conducted one day by the birding group of the Central Okanagan Naturalist Club on the property resulted in 55 bird species being identified.

In 2013, during the dedication of the property as parkland, the provincial government announced that 800 acres of Crown land situated both within and to the south of the new park, had been protected with a reserve restricting industrial activities and other tenures on the property and protecting it for recreation and wildlife. This will provide a continuous corridor of wild land across the south slopes above Kelowna to Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park.

Cedar Mountain Park

Cedar Mountain Regional Park on Chute Lake Road became part of the Johns Family Nature Conservancy Regional Park in 2013, as it is immediately adjacent to it. It includes a popular local climbing area called The Crags.

In 1997, it became necessary to acquire the parking area used for this park, as it was on private property, and it would be expensive to provide alternate access. COLT’s inaugural president, Colin Elliott, was spokesman for the landowners and, even though he was no longer a board member, he obtained consent to sell the five-acre parking area to the Regional District and COLT.

COLT obtained a grant of $4,000 from the Canada Trust Friends of the Environment and a private donation from the Adams family, and contributed $10,000, half the purchase price, so the Regional District could purchase it.

COLT holds a conservation covenant that requires it be preserved as part of the park in perpetuity.

Strachan Covenant

The Central Okanagan Land Trust has the ability to hold covenants on land, with a stipulation that it be maintained in a natural state. An example is an agreement with the Strachan family, who own 124 acres at the south end of Lakeshore Road.