Volunteers united for a clean-up of the Cowichan River earlier this year. (submitted)

Volunteers united for a clean-up of the Cowichan River earlier this year. (submitted)

Free public event celebrates Cowichan River Saturday

The Cowichan River is the lifeblood of our community.

By Parker Jefferson

The Cowichan River is the lifeblood of our community.

For millennia it has provided sustenance for the Cowichan People. It is the foundation of the entire valley ecosystem and provides us with water for domestic, industrial and agricultural use. The returning salmon continue to provide essential nutrients for the river and adjacent forest areas. This supports the expanding web of life around our river that eventually touches every corner of the valley.

We have not always been kind to our river. For centuries after colonization we paid it little regard and severely damaged it with destructive logging practices.

We now understand how everything in the natural world is connected in extremely complex ways. Any damage to part of the ecosystem can have far-reaching effects. We are well aware of the damage we have done and continue to do to the natural world in our watershed. We are also aware of the challenges that our rapidly changing climate will present to every living thing in our valley. We have many man-made problems. Fortunately, there is a rapidly growing force of community members working hard on solutions.

The Cowichan Stewardship Roundtable is a hub where all levels of government, First Nations, industries and local conservation groups meet monthly to discuss their activities and address the problems they see in our valley. Connections made there between groups and individuals are invaluable as we work together to protect and preserve our river and community for future generations.

Illegal riparian destruction is being monitored and stopped. Riparian restoration works have been ongoing for many years in the lake and river. Hundreds of volunteers are working together to create awareness and do what they can to enhance our environment. A great example of this spirit is in the annual upper and lower river cleanups.

Near the end of summer, volunteers gather for intensive one-day efforts to clean up any garbage left in and around the river. The Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society organizes the upper river cleanup and Cowichan Tribes works with the Cowichan Watershed Board to organize the lower river cleanup.

This year a total of about 200 volunteers removed seven truckloads of garbage from the river. Returnables are separated from recyclables and trash and all are disposed of properly. After the cleanup, food is served and stories exchanged about findings of the day. Donations of food and other materials are graciously accepted from many local businesses that support the cleanup effort.

This year will be celebrating our Heritage River on Rivers Day, Sept. 30. The Cowichan Stewardship Roundtable and Cowichan Tribes are hosting this free public event, which will feature music, dancing, cultural activities, games, fishing and paddling demonstrations. The event will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the public is invited to park at the old VIU campus 222 Cowichan Way, across from Superstore. There will be free food served at about noon.

Please bring your family and friends to help us celebrate our Heritage River and learn about all the groups involved with its protection and enhancement.

Parker Jefferson is the co-chair, Cowichan Stewardship Roundtable.