The evolution of a Creek and an Advocate

It all started with a ditch made to take leechate from North Vancouver’s municipal dump to Lynn Creek. That was Zo Ann Morten’s major initiation into salmon stewardship. It was 1989 – and the very first step was to dig the ditch out by hand.

Zo Ann and co-starter Curry Grass got to work with a small group of volunteers. They were up to their knees in mud much of the time but within two years they had a freshwater stream and habitat for salmon out of land that had literally been laid to waste.

Morten Creek is part of the federal Fisheries and Oceans Salmonid Enhancement program, and a member of the North Shore Streamkeepers Association. It’s an example of a small-scale streamkeeper and hatchery program that has succeeded in reopening migration routes that had vanished as the urban areas grew, allowing the salmon to return to their natural spawning grounds in the watershed in and around Lynn Creek.

The volunteers have learned a lot in the last 30 years – about ecosystems and the way in which hundreds of natural elements intersect. “Give me a rock and I can now talk for hours.” Zo Ann says, picking up a rock and pointing to the significance of a minuscule creature found on its underside.

The Municipality of North Vancouver named the creek after Zo Ann as a testament to the work she had spearheaded, and the results achieved. Morten Creek now sees wild Coho returning annually to spawn, and the fry – or juvenile salmon – that hatch spend the first part of their lives there.

If the project has revitalized a salmon network, it has done at least the same for human community. Jan and Doug have volunteered almost daily for the last 12 years. A fisherman in the 1970s, Doug considers his care of the creek and its salmon as a way he can give back to nature.

Biology, engineering and recreation students all spend time at the creek as part of course studies – and at age ninety-seven Howie stops by once a week with his pals Tom, Bob, and their dogs, to see what needs to be done. About 20 volunteers have regular shifts through the week and for special one-day activities as many as a 100 community members dig in.

As for Zo Ann – she has gone all the way from tackling that first ditch to overseeing the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation, and she now advocates in municipal, provincial and federal arenas on behalf of wild salmon and the programs that support them.

A salmon network indeed.