Name of the site: Brooksdale Environmental Centre, A Rocha Canada
Address: Lower Mainland | Surrey
Size: 18 acres
Type of crops: Over 60 types of vegetables; plum, apple and hazelnut trees; sheep, chickens and currently one llama
Number of people employed: 3 full time farmers live on site; 30 employees
Managed property: since November 2010
After we built the new pond it was used as habitat by fish species so quickly, especially the Salish sucker. That exceeded our expectations.
The following guides are relevant to this project site
Click to download table for stewardship practices on the A Rocha site.
Little Campbell Watershed Society
Friends of Semiahmoo Bay Society
South Coast Conservation Program
Invasive Species Council of BC
Langley Environmental Partners Society
City of Surrey’s Salmon Habitat Restoration Program (SHaRP)
Metro Vancouver Parks
In the last year the group has continued its stewardship work via riparian plantings, invasive species management and a bioengineering workshop with local expert Dave Polster. The workshop brought in 12 participants to the group’s land to learn how to build a wattle fence out of live cuttings of willow and cottonwood.
The group also began using a new technique to manage Himalayan Blackberry, recommended by Dave Polster. Rather than removing the plants and the roots entirely, they instead leave the roots intact and cut up the plants into small pieces. They leave the cuttings on the soil and return 2 to 3 times throughout the growing season to cut up new growth. This technique weakens the blackberries sufficiently that new native plants can be put in the next year and take hold. As well as being easier than other methods, leaving the roots in also has the advantage of protecting the soil and preventing erosion, especially on steep slopes.
Key new projects:
Christy Juteau is the Stewardship Coordinator of A Rocha. As a Christian group, A Rocha’s members love the creator and they see it as part of their mission to care for what he has created. They envision transforming people and places to a healthier community.
Jesse Wildeman is the Environmental Restoration Specialist at the Centre. The group’s 18 acres are divided into approximately equal areas of 1) sustainable agriculture, 2) riparian and forested habitat and 3) community use areas and housing.
Stewardship is key to A Rocha’s mission. Managing their property requires balancing the needs of the group’s agricultural program, maintaining the 1930’s Heritage Site, and supporting the group’s ecological goals, especially for riparian habitat protection and restoration. They seek a holistic approach that allows the ecological and agricultural areas to mutually benefit. The diversity of land use also helps them to engage more people through their education programs. They work to create an oasis that engages all of the senses of visitors to their home.
A Rocha’s work towards key goals of environmental education, ecological restoration and sustainable agriculture takes place not only on the group’s property in Surrey, but also throughout the watershed. They bring together and collaborate with local landowners, local environmental groups such as the Langley Environmental Partners’ Society, as well as local and federal government programs including the City of Surrey’s Salmon Habitat Restoration Program (SHaRP) and Metro Vancouver Parks.
Habitat alteration and invasive species are found across the watershed, including at A Rocha’s Brooksdale Environmental Centre. For instance, reed canary grass had been planted for livestock and currently is causing a problem. Also, a section of the Little Campbell River was straightened in the property and is not naturally meandered. Unfortunately, this section has low habitat complexity.
One of the main challenges of restoring the habitat across the watershed is to provide consistent follow-up and maintenance. It is a long-term commitment to work with neighbours in order to establish lasting effective habitat improvement results.
Long-term nature of on-going need for maintenance, funding, and relationship building are challenges that we are facing.
Christy also mentioned deer browsing and beavers as challenges.
They love our new seedlings. We have to protect the seedlings down here in the flat areas.
One important technical challenge that Christy mentioned is the need for good communication among different sectors across the watershed. For example, the river extends across five local governments, two countries, First Nations land, regional parkland, and many stewardship groups are active in the area as well.
Communication can be challenging within the watershed. There is a need to maintain open and clear communication so we can continue to learn from each other and make the best decisions for land stewardship.
By watching and following natural cycles, restoration work can help nature to heal itself. For example, after blackberries were machine-cleared on one area of the riparian zone, the soil was reseeded naturally from red alder plantings near by. The native flora came back denser and healthier than if they would have done plantings. This area has actually been one of the most effective at shading out the reed canary grass in the river.
In participating in the bioengineering workshop, Jesse noticed a key benefit—all the materials were natural which meant they could come from on site. This kept the project cost-effective and ecologically appropriate.
The group conducts regular monitoring of 11 different species as well as a percent cover map of invasive plants and a watershed scale water quality monitoring program. During the amphibian breeding season from late February to early April, they conduct more regular monitoring of water quality and amphibian activities.
In its watershed monitoring program, the group has found several endangered species, either on their property or in the watershed, including: the Salish Sucker, Oregon Forest Snail, Western Painted Turtle, Oregon Spotted Frog and the Pacific Water Shrew.