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Cecelia Creek Cleanup

Today, Cecelia Creek is much more than a rehabilitated urban waterway; it is a model of community partnership and cooperation. Please, help us continue to preserve and improve the natural beauty of this important waterway so that it may be enjoyed by generations to come. Contact us for more information on how you can get involved.

Situated in one of the earliest settled areas of Victoria, Cecelia Creek is one of many creeks and tributaries that empty into the Gorge waterway. Until recently, it was also one of the most polluted.

Both the Gorge itself, as well as the creeks and ravines in the surrounding watershed, have enjoyed recreational use by local families since the 1850’s. As early as 1905, however, concerns were raised regarding the “undesirable sanitary conditions” along the Gorge, due in large part to polluted runoff from the surrounding watershed. Once a popular swimming and recreation spot, the Gorge gradually became more and more polluted, while fecal coliform concentrations and levels of chemical pollutants in Cecelia Creek reached dangerously high levels.

One of the most highly polluted waterways in the Gorge Watershed, Cecelia Creek had the dubious honour of containing the highest levels of fecal coliform counts among the creeks that were being monitored. Faulty sewage lines, “cross-connections” between sewers and storm drains, and the presence of a septic depot in Cecelia Ravine Park all contributed to the dangerously high levels of fecal coliform. In addition, water samples from the creek revealed significant amounts of chemical contaminants such as oil and mercury, and metals such as lead and zinc, as well as more obvious pollutants such as cigarette butts, plastics and Strofoam. As well as making the creek and the surrounding ravine unsafe for recreational use, these contaminants were washing into the Gorge waterway and contributing significantly to overall watershed pollution.

Sporadic clean up efforts had been made along the Gorge since 1950, but it wasn’t until the 1990’s that there was sufficient public interest and support to undertake a large scale water quality improvement project. It was at this point that the Cecelia Creek Clean Up Committee was formed, the purpose of which was to implement a coordinated community effort to revitalize this important waterway and the surrounding ravine. Spearheaded by Kate Forster, president of the Burnside Gorge Community Association, many dedicated individuals, community groups, businesses and funding partners participated in the restoration project. Today, Cecelia Creek is a model of community partnership and cooperation in action.

Recognizing that the clean up of Cecelia Creek was an important and necessary step in restoring both ecological diversity in the ravine and improving local environmental conditions, the Cecelia Creek Clean Up Committee began enlisting the support of community partners in 1007. The committee worked closely with the City of Victoria to “daylight” some parts of Cecelia Creek that had been incorporated into underground stormdrains. Provincial funding then enabled to hiring of an E-Team. This crew of youth and adults embarked on general clean up and dye-testing, a process which identifies sources of sewage entering the creek.

Local businesses were also encouraged to do their part in keeping pollutants out of the creek though the adoption of Best Management Practices (BMPs). A manual of BMP’s was developed and distributed to help businesses ensure efficient operations, compliance with legal requirements, and the prevention of further pollution in the watershed. The support of the automotive sector, which has a prominent presence in the Burnside Gorge area, was enlisted and a recognition program was established to regard businesses for their environmental initiatives.

Local youth played an important part in the restoration project. Along with members of the E-Team, children from Burnside Community School and members of the Guides delivered hundreds of educational pamphlets to residents and businesses in the Cecelia Creek watershed. The pamphlets explained the environmental and health issues involved, the clean up process, and how individuals could help.

A major victory in the clean up effort was achieved in March, 2000, when the Capital Regional District closed its septage disposal facility in Cecelia Ravine Park and agreed to help with the costs of redeveloping the park. As part of this redevelopment, a strolling garden, Garry Oak meadow, public access points and lighting were installed, and the area was replanted with native vegetation to help return portions of the ravine to its natural conditions.

Today, life is returning to Cecelia Creek. Fish, frogs and birds are again starting to inhabit this fragile eco-system and families are enjoying the trails and shorelines with a greater environmental awareness and respect.