For 20 years now, Low Tide Day has been celebrated in Cowichan Bay. the result is a tidier beach and a lot of knowledge. (Citizen file)

Low Tide Day celebrates a bittersweet 20th anniversary in Cowichan Bay

Event’s founding father has died, but the tradition continues

It’ll be a bittersweet Low Tide Day in Cowichan Bay on Saturday, May 19.

It’s the annual event’s 20th anniversary and the special day will run from 10:30 a.m. through until 3 p.m. but it will be without Dr. Bill Austin, the event’s founder.

Austin died on March 22.

Austin was a renowned marine biologist and expert in sponges and biodiversity. A former instructor at Simon Fraser University, he also was a founding father of the Bamfield Marine Station on the Island’s west coast. Austin’s work was the inspiration for Cow Bay’s own Estuary Nature Centre as well.

According to event organizer John Scull, Austin lived with Parkinson’s disease and for the last few years was unable to participate too much.

Nevertheless Autin left a lasting impression on the Cowichan Bay community after Cowichan Bay left an impression on him.

“He [founded] the marine ecology station in Cowichan Bay and was there for a number of years before it moved to Sidney,” Scull noted.

That centre merged with the Sidney Whale Museum to become what’s now the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre.

Spending so much time in the community gave him a great appreciation for it. And thus what had previously been just a British tradition on the Saturday in May with the lowest tide, Low Tide Day was celebrated. And has been a fixture in the village for 20 years now.

“We tend to get 100 people or so,” Scull noted of the family friendly event.

The morning begins with a beach cleanup at Kil-pah-las Beach.

“Teams go out and scour the shoreline for trash to tidy everything up,” Scull said. “That’s really positive. Over the years the amount of stuff we find on the beach goes down and down and down.”

From “truckloads” two decades ago to very little in more recent years, Scull said the effort has made a positive impact on the shoreline and the community in general.

“People are being tidier,” he noted.

After a lunch of local goodness, (which, along with the music, will be provided by the Cowichan Bay community), the event becomes all about science activities for families. The popular critter count will take place and it’s a chance to get some hands-on interaction with marine life in the inter-tidal zone. Go for an hour or make a day of it, there’ll be plenty to do down in Cowichan Bay.

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