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Community Connections at the Coho Festival

Did you make it to the Coho Festival this September?

This local annual event takes place every Fall to celebrate the return of the Coho Salmon to the North Shore’s spawning channels. The big day starts early for some, with about 700 athletes running a 14K course from Kitsilano all the way to Ambleside Beach.

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This is where the festival really gets going, with environmental groups of all kinds coming together to celebrate the successful return of the salmon.

Salmon weren’t the only stars of the show this year: the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) brought some very…interesting samples of local fish most people don’t know about.

This friendly looking fella for example is a Cabezon Sculpin, found in kelp beds from here to California.

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Cheakamus Centre

Cheakamus Centre and the Alumni Society even had a booth! Staffed by Cheakamus Centre Vice Principal Kate Keough, and alumni Genny ‘Jinx’ Bailey & Temma ‘Poppy’ Shandon, visitors learned about salmon spawning cycles, and about different kinds of local seabirds.

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Kate even brought down a select few taxidermied (stuffed) birds to give folks a look at real birds up close.

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Talking to local families and adults alike about salmon and bird identification is always a treat for us. But, there was something else in the salty sea air that day…something special: we were a community drawn together by a common cause.

We all go about our lives – volunteer and personal – blissfully unaware of everyone else who cares about the same things that we do. Unconscious of the scope of people dedicated to the same work we put our heart and souls into.

Sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming: can we protect a whole species of salmon on our own? Or protect the perilous ecological balance in the Pacific Northwest (where we live) on our weekends? Or teach every child in our community to respect and connect with nature?

The Coho Festival really showed us that we’re not alone in this fight. Every other organization that had a booth at the Coho Festival plays an important role in shaping the relationship between us (human beings) and our local environment.

Community Connections

While Temma, Kate, and Genny were manning the Cheakamus Centre booth, I had the luxury of walking around and chatting with a few of these other organizations. The variety of folks out there at the festival was impressive.

The North Shore Bear Society, for example, works to sustain the fragile relationship between our region’s black bears and encroaching human civilization on their territory. They do this through public education, teaching North Vancouverites about bear safety and incident prevention.

Taking a different approach, the Old Growth Conservation Society works to protect the last remaining old growth trees in the mountains of West Vancouver. The area they protect includes trees (Western Red Cedars to be exact) which are over 900 years old!

The folks at the Seymour Salmonid Society engage with our local natural world in yet a different way than these other two. They maintain the hatchery up by the Seymour Dam and engage in public education about the importance of salmon to our ecosystem. Spoiler alert: salmon are a “keystone” species, which means most other living things in our region rely on them some way or another. Since a rockslide blocked salmon spawning channels in the Seymour Conservation area, they’ve also relied on volunteers to literally carry fish upstream to spawn, then back down afterwards. They’re always looking for volunteers for this and other important projects!

While these three organizations seem to do very different things (bear encounter prevention, tree conservation, and salmon stewardship) they all deal with similar struggles. They work to rebalance the fragile equilibrium that exists between human activities – building houses, polluting oceans/rivers, feeding on fish, and building golf courses – and our ecosystem. In the North Shore specifically, bears who used to have large territory to roam and enough food to eat now root through trashbags, compost bins, and bird feeders. Like this fella in my backyard a month ago…

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The point is, we all have a common goal: preserving our (super)natural environment, and deepening the connection we humans have with nature. So, why not organize and work together?
Hopefully you’ll soon hear of projects we’re working on with some of these amazing local community organizations! In the meantime though, if you’re especially passionate about something one of them does – reach out and volunteer for them!