As the city developed, the creek was buried; lost but not altogether forgotten. Back in 2010, a group of neighbours got together to re-imagine their community with a stream running through it once again. The concept of an urban rain garden – or in this case, a rainway – uses rainwater runoff to recreate more natural ecosystems in urban neighbourhoods.
What started as a conversation became a focus for community celebrations, parades and workshops. A luscious mural of salmon-filled waters, the work of neighbourhood artists, appeared to cascade down the roadway. The Vancouver Society of Storytelling helped to build a community storytelling bench at the “head” of the pictorial stream.
Then in 2016, the St. George Rainway Project was named as a stakeholder in the City of Vancouver’s Integrated Rainwater Management Plan – a major step forward for all the committed partners and volunteers. It turns out the poetic idea of revitalizing a neighbourhood stream is also rooted in progressive rainwater management practices.
The City of Vancouver is committed to using the abundant west coast rainfall it receives as a resource. As part of its Greenest City Initiative, the goal is to capture and treat 90 per cent of average rainfall with green infrastructure tools, as well as design guidelines for public and private spaces.
St. George’s Rainway steward Shahira Sakiyama says the community engagement work will continue alongside more official infrastructure development and collaborations with the City. The rainway project has established links with annual events, such as Mount Pleasant Days, and with the nearby Mount Pleasant Elementary school. The sum total is “really creating ownership amongst the community,” says Sakiyama, “especially the kids.”
If people have the power to re-shape a city, then te Statlew speaks to anyone who will stop and listen. Starting at the storyteller’s bench, the creek still flows north below Broadway to the Mt. Pleasant Elementary field. The road slopes gently downward to 6th Avenue. From there, the hill gets steeper and you can hear water rushing under the storm drains – especially after a period of rain. It’s a startling reminder that despite time and change and urban development, the creek continues to flow beneath our feet.
To learn more about the St. George Rainway, or to get involved with this community-led initiative, visit www.rainway.ca. Plus, there’s more on the City of Vancouver’s Rainwater Management plan at: http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/city-wide-integrated-stormwater-management-plan.aspx