Daylighting Confederation Creek, article by The Friends of Confederation Creek

Pictured: Confederation Creek flowing through Confederation Park, a happier vision of what could be for many buried streams in this watershed. Photo credit: Patrick Saunders

By Elliot Lindsay, Friends of Confederation Creek

The Friends of Confederation Creek (FOCC) are a volunteer-led society concerned with the preservation, protection, and restoration of the Confederation Creek watershed. This year, thanks to Watershed Stewardship Grant funding administered by the Land Stewardship Center of Canada, we have launched the “Uncovering Confederation Creek” project. This work seeks to tell the story of streams in this watershed; past and present, and generate interest and discussion on the future of these important and underappreciated streams. We encourage anyone interested in learning more and getting involved to contact us at friendsofconfederationcreek@gmail.com and to follow us on Facebook. Check out our December article, introducing the project and background of the watershed, in several Great News community newsletters for NW Calgary.

The Confederation Creek watershed (drainage area) covers an area of 2700 hectares of NW Calgary, encompassing communities from Shaganappi Trail NW, all the way to Edmonton Trail NE on the south side of Nose Hill; from Brentwood and Varsity to Highland Park and Thorncliffe Greenview. While some sections of Confederation Creek, Queen’s Park Creek, and several springs remain above ground where they can be enjoyed by the public, much of the length of these streams were buried in concrete stormwater pipes beginning in the 1950’s. In addition, much of the watershed area has been converted to pavement, rooftops, roads and hard surfaces, sending runoff rushing into concrete pipes preventing the slowing, filtering, and settling that happens in natural stream corridors and their floodplains. Fortunately, there are alternatives that many cities around the world are implementing to bring these buried streams back to life, and in doing so gain the valuable ecosystem services they provide. This exciting opportunity is commonly referred to as daylighting, and there is perhaps no better place to implement this than right here in the Confederation Creek watershed.

The organization American Rivers defines stream daylighting as a process which “…revitalizes streams by uncovering some or all of a previously covered river, stream, or stormwater drainage.” While there is some debate as to the true first daylighting project, some of the earliest efforts included the San Francisco Bay area’s Napa Creek project in 1970, and later the Strawberry Creek project completed in 1984 in Berkeley, California. Not long after in 1988, Zurich, Switzerland introduced a municipal policy in accordance with the “Bachkonzept” or “stream concept”, which has supported the daylighting of over 21 km of streams!

Some cities such as Yonkers, New York, have implemented stream daylighting projects right in the heart of downtown, removing several blocks worth of aging pavement and infrastructure to reveal and restore sections of the Saw Mill River, bringing migratory fish species back and improving urban life, fostering greatly increased investments along the restored river corridor and creating new and improved park spaces for citizens to enjoy. With so many of Confederation Creek and its tributaries buried beneath green spaces, the opportunities to implement stream daylighting are not only feasible, but also a real possibility. We hope to further explore this exciting topic and its potential here in the watershed, in another article this winter. Stay tuned!

Vanessa Gillard

Programming and community engagement coordinator at the Thorncliffe Greenview Community Association. Spouse Adam Grayton

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