by John Saremba
In early June, Christina Saremba and I had a pleasant chat with Port Coquitlam Councillor Nancy McCurrach during a walk around Blakeburn Lagoons Park. We briefly discussed the incredible value and benefits of this nature park ever since its re-construction. Christina and I also shared our thoughts about how the ecological functions and diversity of the park could be further enhanced with proactive vegetation management. Following that conversation, the City of Port Coquitlam’s Public Works Superintendent for Parks asked to meet with us to discuss our thoughts on vegetation management at Blakeburn.
Consequently, we were asked to meet with several City staff onsite at Blakeburn on June 11, 2020. This onsite meeting enabled us to present a variety of comments regarding ways to further enhance the ecological diversity of vegetation and wildlife species at this park. In preparation for this meeting, we were able to obtain some feedback from several other BMN members regarding suggestions for vegetation management, including: Lee Harding, Lori Austin, Liz Thunstrom, David Mounteney, and John Reynolds. As well, Andrew Robertson, the Lead Landscape Architect responsible for the design of the Blakeburn Lagoons Park, also provided some background information regarding the environmental design intent of the park. We hope consideration of this information will help determine what vegetation management practices may be suitable to ensure that the park continues to achieve the intended design features.
Blakeburn Lagoons foreshore November, 2018
Blakeburn Lagoons foreshore June 2020
Photos: John Saremba
Discussion highlights from our onsite meeting included:
- City staff agreed to the value of developing a maintenance plan for management of the park’s vegetation, natural resources, water quality, safety, viewscapes, and citizens’ enjoyment of this nature park.
- They acknowledged the need for selective and careful pruning and plant removal, where suitable, to restore specific ecological zones to their original intended design functionality. For example, gravel pads and foreshore beach areas have become overgrown with vegetation planted in adjacent areas, thereby reducing the diversity of habitats for different bird and other wildlife species.
- It was pointed out that the original plan for the park was to let the plants to grow into a forested area with a variety of different ecological zones. Since there has been considerable change in City staff since construction of the park, it would be useful for new park staff to contact Andrew Robertson (Manager, Landscape Architecture, ISL Engineering and Land Services) and obtain information about original concepts for vegetation plantings and ecological zones.
- To ensure suitable vegetation management practices, it would be useful for the City to retain an environment consultant to do an assessment of the existing vegetation and provide recommendations for a vegetation management plan to maximize ecological diversity.
- It would be useful in considering vegetation pruning to create better sight lines in select areas for better bird and wildlife viewing opportunities. City staff should consult with experienced birders to determine suitable locations for such sight lines.
- It would be useful to engage volunteer work parties from the public and community groups (such as BMN) to assist in a variety of vegetation management projects, such as invasive species mapping and plant removal.
- City staff were also open to the idea of having schoolchildren and college/university students to assist with citizen science projects or conduct nature studies at this park.
- The City will have to purchase a variety of specialized maintenance equipment, including a small flat-bottomed boat to access the islands, as well as provide more access gates into the interior of the park for maintenance work.
- Methods to maintain water quality were discussed, including the removal of some aquatic vegetation, which may adversely affect water quality. The lack of sufficient water flow exchange during low water levels may limit water quality in the lagoons. A suitable solution such as aeration or bubbler device in the ponds would require considerable funding and could be considered via a long-term plan.
- The City is interested in developing interpretative nature programming for this park, which could involve nature groups such as BMN.
- It was suggested that the City hold a park appreciation day and provide more interpretative signage to increase the public’s awareness of the value of this park and its environmental sensitivity.
- The City could provide promotion for a possible iNaturalist bio-inventory project at this park.