Feature Story                                                                                                     Wednesday June 13, 2012


Spirit of Community 

1st Annual Cultus Lake Community Day a hit with locals

Staff/Voice photos


The Dragon Flyers in the Cultus Lake Community Day Parade last Saturday.


t's not often a pancake breakfast draws as much excitement as the Cultus Lake Fire Department's did Saturday morning. Lillian Newhouse, Main Beach Events and Fundraising Committee organizer, told the Voice that volunteers flipped $700 in flapjacks at Cultus Lake Community Day.


For the first time, Cultus Lake residents were treated to their very own parade and participants had such fun on the first circuit that some wanted to do it again. It was more fun than money can buy.


A kid’s carnival at the community school helped to raise money by selling bracelets for $5/day and there was an open air market with music and food.


People can expect more fun events at the lake this summer.


"We're sanctioned by the Cultus Lake board to put on some events and we're going to be doing more this summer," said Newhouse.


Money raised goes back into the park for improvements to Main Beach.


"Cultus Lake doesn't receive grants from the government, so we have to raise our own money if we want any capital expenditures, so to do upgrades to Main Beach,


Some of the projects they are looking at include; a new playground and better and access for disabled visitors.


"There's not a good pathway to the washrooms and to the beach, so we're trying to get that going."


Newhouse says they are also giving people an opportunity to leave their mark on the park.


"We're doing what's called Be a Part of Your Park, and for a $20 donation you can have your name engraved on a brick."


The bricks will be used as walkway liners where there won't be a lot of foot traffic to wear the names down on the bricks.


"We've sold a couple hundred now and we'll just keep building on that all throughout the summer," she said. "They'll be at Market in the Park every Saturday


For those who missed the brick engraving at the park Saturday, they can drop into the Park Board office during business hours and make a donation there. The bricks will also be available at events in the park all summer long.


Water Stewards

Cultus Lake has 19 different species of fish and it used to be world renowned for the clarity of the water. Not surprisingly that has changed over the years due development and more visitors which has put pressure on the lake’s eco system and its ability to clear itself.


There are two main issues that plague Lake; pike minnows and something called “water eutrophication” where the lake gets too many nutrients that stimulate excessive plant growth like algae and when this plant material breaks down and rots, oxygen in the lake gets depleted causing fish die-offs.


Groups such as the Fraser Basin Council (FBC), Cultus Lake Aquatic Stewardship Society (CLASS) and the Fraser Valley Salmon Society (FVSS) are working to manage the problem.


Until Cultus Lake residences on septic systems are connected to the Chilliwack sewage system, they really can’t begin to make a difference in the water quality.


Owen Skonberg, Park Board Director, says one of the problems they face with an upgrade of such magnitude is funding. Currently they are plugging away trying to come up with the resources.


"We're trying to work with the City of Chilliwack and the provincial government to see if we can somehow get the septic tank sewage systems out of here,” he said. “All that stuff goes down and leeches into the lake."


Cultus Lake is home to the pygmy sculpin, the only place in the world it's found and is on the federal government's list as an endangered species.


Pike minnows are an issue because they're not native to the lake and they eat salmon fry. They reproduce faster than rabbits and don't have any natural predators.


Each year, the FVSS nets the pesky fish and tags others for the Greg Clark Fishing Derby which takes out up to 1000 pike minnows out of the lake.


The pike minnow problem is manageable. According to Skonberg, there were 70,000 of them in Cultus Lake, but through a concerted effort from CLASS and FRSS, they've reduced that number by half.


"We get working with the FVSS, and they bring a seiner right here and take about 2500 fish," said Skonberg. "But we don't want to eliminate them all together because they do have a job, they do clean up the water, but because they over-populate, they end up eating the salmon fry"


"By taking the pike minnow population down, we bring the salmon population up."


Skonberg says another part of the program that helps the fry's survival involves fisheries workers taking salmon eggs to the hatcheries and then later reintroducing them to the lake.


The Symbolic Salmon Statue

Marion Robinson, Fraser Basin Council (FBC) chair and facilitator, Chilliwack MP Mark Strahl, Soowahlie Chief Otis Jasper and park dignitaries were on hand for the unveiling of a concrete salmon located at the bridge connecting Main Beach and the parking lot.



Soowahlie Chief Otis Jasper (L), Marion Robinson and Chilliwack MP Mark Strahl uncover the new salmon statue that will greet visitors to Main Beach at Cultus Lake.


During the ceremony, blankets and small gifts were given to those who took part.


Fraser Basin Council is getting more members signed up and Robinson says they have about 60 on their e-mail list and 20 regulars that show up and "do good work"


She and her group have a keen interested in what lies ahead in terms of the social, economic and environmental well-being of Cultus Lake.


One element of FBC's mandate is sustainability in all its shapes.


"We need to take care of all those things that take care of us. One of them is our water and watersheds which are home to our fish, therefore the salmon which is highly symbolic," she told the Voice.


"We are very pleased today unveil a salmon statue and also in support of the parks board which is moving in the direction of beautification and events organizing, and also the partnership with Soowahlie people."


The statue will be the first thing people coming from the parking lot see and Robinson says that it help bring more awareness to the iconic foodfish also that its there in honour of "the perpetual wellness of the lake itself that includes Cultus Lake Park."


Steeped in Soowahlie History

Jasper acknowledged the work that CLASS and FBC have been doing and thanked them for it.


"We, very much as Soowahlie, appreciate the effort, hard work and dedication that so many people have to try and protect this beautiful place."


He wants Cultus Lake residents and park users to know something about Soowahlie history in the area.


"The longer you look back, the further you fall behind," he said quoting an unnamed source.


"For me this has meant many different things," he said.


"I think of this place where Soowahlie had this old ancient village that we lived year-round for a few hundred years and moved to other places and came back and gave the land an opportunity to rehabilitate itself," explained Jasper.


"Today is a great day. It's the 80th Anniversary of the Cultus Lake Park Board and I don't want to take away from this day, I want to contribute to this day."


"At the same time I do represent my community in Soowahlie and I do feel I have an obligation to share with everyone a bit of where we're coming from on a day like today.


"As we're trying to build relationships and gather strength with the parks board and the citizens of Cultus Lake, and working with the City of Chilliwack, it's very important that we have good communication and we have a foundation to work with that is solid," he said.


"In that way, we have to have everything on the table. And I've shared over the last year or so in many different circles this piece of history that is very important I think as we move forward."


In 1927, there was a special meeting between the senate and House of Commons, and the result of that meeting was section 141 of the Indian Act which included that First Nations were not allowed to, among other things, access legal services, or not allowed to fundraise for legal services.


"Of course at that time we weren't allowed off our reserve to be in the economy, to be working, unless we became Canadian citizens, left our Stó:lō and indigenous heritage, and officially became a part of Canada. But we had to leave behind our ways."


Jasper said that it wasn't until 1951 that his band was allowed to participate in the decision-making process at the park.


"Decisions that have great impact on us," he said.


In closing, Jasper said that "the more we can share our history and our lives here together the better our future will be."



Governments Working Together

Strahl said he wants to work hard with the three levels of government and praised the groups, City and individuals for their work at the lake. He also talked about growing up in Chilliwack and what Cultus Lake has meant to him and his family over the years.


“For most people growing up in Chilliwack, Cultus Lake is an important symbol. I know spent a lot of time here as a youngster and still bring my family here now. I think it's a multi-generational thing and I want to make sure it's there for my son and his son as well.”


Jack Brown represented MLA Gwen O'Mahony who was at her niece’s graduation ceremony, thanked the groups for their efforts at the park.


Brown said his father was a commercial fisherman for 50 years and that he spent a lot of his formative years aboard, learning about the catches.


"I've seen in my time the magnificence of the salmon, the importance of it to our economy and to our society, as well as the First People's, and I've also seen the decline that has happened in my short lifetime and I've heard stories from my father, and many others, the decline that has happened over half a century, over a century," he said.


"So this I think is a very important day and a very important moment for us to recognize the importance both historically, and now, of this one particular fish."


The Langley Divers were in the lake Sunday following the festivities, looking for anything that didn't belong there. The divers do a cleanup every now and then and among the items are things like sunglasses and bottled alcohol.


Related Links

Fraser Basin Council www.fraserbasin.bc.ca

Fraser Valley Salmon Society www.fraservalleysalmonsociety.ca

Cultus Lake Park Board www.cultuslake.bc.ca

Soowahlie Band www.soowahlie.ca


See more photos below.

© Copyright (c) 2012 The Valley Voice































































































































The end of the gallery. Thanks for looking. Return to the main page here.