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Byrne Creek

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Section of Creek Daylighted After 50 Years

Thanks to good design, committed effort and cooperation, and a bit of luck, a new 150m section of Byrne Creek in the Edmonds community has been transformed from a pipe in the ground to a beautiful and lush creek. This project shows that new development can provide an opportunity to bring nature back into urban areas of the city, helping to regenerate ecosystems and healthy communities. Although planting trees and creating eco-friendly water features are becoming commonplace, creek daylighting, which involves opening up and restoring a formerly buried portion of a creek, can be more challenging due to costs and land area required. But when the opportunity is right, a restored creek can revitalize a neighbourhood for both wildlife and people.

The Opportunity

The site, located near the corner of Stride Avenue and 17th Street, formerly six single-family lots, was to be redeveloped for multi-family housing, in line with the City’s Official Community Plan. An upper portion of Byrne Creek used to flow through the site but was piped in the 1960s, before the City’s Open Watercourse Policy came into effect. Byrne Creek itself is a salmon-bearing creek that has been the focus of renewal since the 1980s (see Read More below).

Beginning in 2010 the City began investigating the idea of opening up the stream again, as part of a plan of development. It seemed like a good fit for restoration: the new channel could directly connect with the open section of the creek; the site was fairly large; the adjacent road was to be closed to vehicles as part of the City’s Urban Trail network, which would allow the public to enjoy the creek as well. And Byrne Creek itself had already benefitted from a lot of effort invested by Streamkeepers, DFO, the City and others (see Read More below).

When an interested developer, Ledingham McAllister, came forward, the City worked with them to negotiate the stream daylighting as a condition for approval to develop the site. Instead of townhouses, a 3½ storey apartment building design allowed more land area for the new stream, without a loss of development potential.

After a lot of design work by the developer’s team of engineers, architects and biologists, with input and vetting by the City, construction of the new channel began in the summer of 2013 and was completed over about two months. (See Read More for more details.)

The Results

The urban trail alongside the original Byrne Creek channel emerges from the forest and where there used to be just an old cement pipe emerging from the ground, now you can stand on the stream crossing and look upstream at the new channel. It’s roughly an “L” shape, hugging the outside edge of the site, approximately where the pipe was buried. From this vantage point the creek appears as a slice of calm water reflecting the sky, with a few cattails in the shallows and bordered by fast-growing willows, salmonberry shrubs, alder and cedar trees. The new townhomes across the street and the apartment building on the site frame the view. Birds including Chickadees, Juncos and Spotted Towees can be heard as they forage among the shrubs. Fish may one day use the channel too, once some barriers downstream are fixed. The story of the creek daylighting is featured prominently in Ledingham McAllister’s marketing material for the development, now known as “Storybrook”.

It’s not a scene that most people think of when talking about new development and increasing density.

Although not all sites can accommodate a new stream, the idea of bringing nature back with new development is not a new one in Burnaby. As new areas are developed, we can expect to see more ‘green’ features like native plants, street trees, raingardens, and, in the right place, new and restored habitats like streams and wetlands.

Read More…

  • Waterways Map

    Waterways MapMoreLearn the historic names of waterways in Burnaby.
  • Watershed Map

    WatershedMoreFind your watershed on our watershed map.