Future of Stanley Park's Beaver Lake is murky

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      Stanley Park’s Beaver Lake is disappearing, and it could be gone within the decade.

      That’s why Vancouver park board commissioner Loretta Woodcock wants to hold public discussions on the future of one of the city’s last remaining wetlands, as the lake is steadily being taken over by plants.

      She intends to get the ball rolling on Saturday (August 7) when she and other park advocates will walk around Beaver Lake starting at 10:30 a.m. The choices appear simple enough: preserve this aquatic ecosystem or allow the forest to take over.

      The Coalition of Progressive Electors park commissioner doesn’t have an answer at this point herself. “We want to ask the question because staff is coming back to us in the fall with a recommendation about Beaver Lake,” Woodcock told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “I want to hear what the public says.”

      This past spring, the nonprofit Stanley Park Ecology Society released a detailed report on the health of the 400-hectare park that is considered the jewel of the city.

      The 229-page State of the Park Report for the Ecological Integrity of Stanley Park has a five-page section devoted to Beaver Lake, describing it as the “largest watershed in the Park, draining an area of approximately 112 ha [hectares] of mainly conifer forest and a total stream channel length including tributaries of 1.9 km”.

      But the lake is shrinking. From an area of 6.7 hectares in 1938, the wetland stood at 3.9 hectares in 1997.

      The report cited a study done in 1984 that “estimated that the lake would fill in by the year 2020”.

      Robyn Worcester has spent a considerable amount of time conducting wildlife surveys at the lake. The conservation programs manager for the Stanley Park Ecology Society is familiar with the many winged species that depend on it, from ducks, geese, herons, and eagles to small birds like sparrows.

      According to Worcester, the lake also hosts several types of aquatic animals, including frogs, salamanders, turtles, and sticklebacks. She added that coho salmon are also present in the streams fed by the lake.

      “Wetlands are important for a variety of reasons,” Worcester told the Straight in a phone interview. “One of the main reasons is that they’re an incredibly important habitat for wildlife.”

      If the lake disappears, so will these animals, Worcester noted. “I think it’s really important that we find a way to keep Beaver Lake around,” she said. “I don’t have an answer how to do it yet.”

      According to the report prepared by Worcester’s group, Beaver Lake was described in the 1860s as “the Pond”. It gained its current name when beavers came in 1907. Beavers had been gone from the lake for about 60 years until one arrived in 2008.

      Over the years, several alterations have been made to the environment of Stanley Park. But according to Worcester, one major development that reduced the natural water supply of the lake was the completion in 1938 of the Stanley Park Causeway, which bisected the park. Water lilies were introduced to the lake that same year, and now cover most of its surface.

      As a UBC student, André Zimmermann studied the hydrology of Beaver Lake. Now a geomorphologist who looks at how landscapes change, Zimmermann told the Straight by phone that one way to preserve the lake would be to raise its water level. This could be achieved by dredging in order to remove sediment from the bottom.

      The Stanley Park Ecology Society report indicates that a similar recommendation was made during the 1980s but that this hasn’t been implemented.

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      9 Comments

      David L.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 8:09am

      It's obviously time to "Stop Studying & Start Moving" dredge it out to somewhere near 1940's size and get on with it now !

      RickW

      Aug 6, 2010 at 7:34am

      Wouldn't dredging kill off much of the inhabitants of the lake? Besides, the only real reasons that plants can take over is because the water feeding the lake must be diminishing, and/or silting must be happening. How about increasing water inflow, and halting possible silting, before dredging?
      RickW

      psychobitch

      Aug 6, 2010 at 11:26am

      Dredging is very harmful and destructive. The creatures you wish to save may spend some part of their life cycle in the mud. If human activety such as road building depleted the water supply, then look for ways to make up that supply. If introduced plant species have taken over, then remove them and plant native species. Lakes and ponds slowing down, filling in and becomming meadows, then forests are part of nature's cycle. Before 6 billion human suits walked this planet, at least another lake or pond was available for the creatures to go to. How about that "daylighting" project that was proposed for Vancouver's culverted over waterways ?? Less concrete highrises and more wetlands might make some real jewels in Vancouver's crown, but then again - nobody except the environment would profit from that.
      psychobitch

      15 9Rating: +6

      Nicole S.

      Aug 7, 2010 at 9:14am

      Any possibility of a public meeting on the issue? I'm sure a lot of us would like to know more about the options available and the impacts of those options.

      alex the park lover

      Aug 19, 2010 at 12:48pm

      no public meetings , the general public doesn't know its ass from a pond.
      you'll end up with some noob wanting to check for water monkeys

      Principle Skinner

      Sep 2, 2010 at 6:36pm

      Save the Beaver! There are already enough trees.

      8 14Rating: -6

      Biology buff

      Oct 17, 2010 at 11:52pm

      Keeping the lake "natural" is rather meaningless when it has been choked by invasive plant species and had much of its water supply diverted. I'd like to see more water redirected from the far side of the causeway and careful excavation of the sludgy bottom, along with an effort to eradicate lilies, irises, and other plants that "don't belong."

      George Vytasek

      Aug 13, 2011 at 5:35pm

      The cost has been estimated at $100,000.00 for studies and $500,000.00 for work to start at a time when Park Board has hardly enough money to keep public bathrooms open.
      This is an artificial lake, that used to be a little pond. It should have been left that way.
      We always think that we know better than Mother Nature, but every time we interfere, it is for the detriment of nature itself. Please, leave it alone so it will return to what it once was!
      After all, what are we trying to protect, natural Environment or Man made one?

      Dawn

      Jul 21, 2013 at 11:56am

      I agree that dredging the lake could be harmful and expensive, but its the only way to remove all the invasive species. There are also American bullfrogs and red-eared sliders in the lake which were not put there by "mother nature". "Mother nature" can't remove them, but humans can. The bullfrogs will eat anything that fits in their mouth including native birds, fish and other frogs. The endangered western painted turtle has been extirpated from the area because of the introduction of red-eared sliders. As for increasing waterflow into the Lake, it would only temporarily fix the problem. I understand why some would want to let 'mother nature' take over, but if you have some knowledge of forest succession and Stanley Park history that idea doesn't really work here. Beaver Lake has already been altered by man and letting nature take over would mean loss of habitat for wetland species. wetlands are already becoming rare, I think that humans have made a mess of it and should fix it.