Feature Story Saturday, September 28, 2013
A Peach with Panache
Peach Creek Rotary Trail opens
Students from Watson Elementary help Mayor Sharon Gaetz and Rotary President Dennis Rook with opening ceremonies Wednesday.
westering sun filters through the trees painting long shadows across the creek teaming with wriggling salmon. Three or four feet away, a crowd watches from the bank as fish make the final push to their spawning grounds.
Somewhere between 75-100 people, including members of the Chilliwack Rotary Club, City officials and various other dignitaries, met Wednesday at the south end of Lickman Road for a festive ceremony to officially open the Peach Creek Rotary Trail.
Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz and Rotary President Dennis Rook, along with a gaggle of students from Watson Elementary School, snipped the canary yellow ribbon opening the 1.7 km trail.
Mike Hamel, Chilliwack Rotary Club President, reflected on how he and others managed to put the project together.
"It's part of the overall trail system that you as citizens paid for along with the help from the City of Chilliwack and the Rotary Club of Chilliwack," he said. "We've been involved with this project; the Rotary Trail and the subsequent Peach Creek Trail, for a number of years and the cooperation has just been wonderful. It's been a great pleasure to have been involved."
Absent from the ceremony was former Chilliwack police officer Bob Moore, who Hamel said originally showed him the rough trail two years ago and suggested that maybe the Rotary Club would be interested in doing something with it.
“That kind of launched it, so thank you to Bob and I wish he could have been here so that we could've applauded him, but let’s do it anyway.”
Hamel said they just didn't throw down the gravel without any forethought, but engaged the community in consultation first, particularly local schools like Watson Elementary School, where teacher Leslie Ann Thornton helped facilitate that part of the process.
Hamel also showed appreciation for the help they received from Parks Manager Dave Snider, who he said was instrumental in getting the ball rolling.
Snider acknowledged the kudos and took the opportunity to mention some of the of the others involved such as; City General Manager Chris Crosman, Gord Pederson, Director of Parks, Recreation and Culture, Dennis Rook, Chilliwack Rotary Club President and members of the Chilliwack-Vedder River Cleanup Society.
A salmon slices into the current as it makes its way upstream to spawn in Peach Creek on Wednesday.
“We recognize this partnership not only with Rotary Club and the City itself, but it takes a lot of hands to make this stuff happen, and we want to acknowledge your volunteer activities over the years,” he said.
Snider also thanked volunteers who did everything from chasing funds and working on the trail planning committee to hanging trail signs, such as the 9 interpretive sign boards which provide educational information about various fauna and flora found along the trail.
The Rotary Trail, which runs for 16 km along the Vedder River, was conceived three decades ago and now has approximately 8,000 visitors weekly. Original plans were to make the trail along the dyke, away from the river, but Hamel said the committee at the time wisely opted for the riverbank route instead.
"We think that decision was a good one," said Hamel.
He talked about their contribution of around $80,000 to the Peach Creek Trail system which hooks into the Vedder trail, saying that even though over the years that number is well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, it pales in comparison to the millions that the City has contributed on behalf of taxpayers.
“That’s money well spent on behalf of the taxpayers,” he said.
Dennis Rook, president of the Rotary Club presented Mayor Sharon Gaetz with an oversized cheque in the amount of $21,000 as their final installment for the new trail.
"For those of you who have had the opportunity to go down this trail, it is so fabulous," said Gaetz. "My husband and I take our bikes out to the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve, go down the trail and loop back this way."
She said she's proud of what's been accomplished for the community.
"What I see too are people sitting on those little benches, reading books and having quiet, passive time on the trail," she said.
Gaetz spoke about releasing salmon into the creek with local school kids and how great it was to see the fish coming back.
"When people talk about their favourite places in Chilliwack, they talk about the Vedder River Trail and I know the Peach Creek Trail will be added to that for special places the people can be."
Rotary is also working on another trail on the south side of the river which they say is about 70 per cent complete.
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