Langley platform offers safe view of sensitive terrain. May 18th 2017

Langley platform offers safe view of sensitive terrain. May 18th 2017

Built with love: More than a yera in the making a new, limited-access viewing platform overlooks the Langley Bog. (Special to the Langley Advance)

Langley platform offers safe view of sensitive terrain

The public cannot go into the bog except by special arrangement.

There’s a place in Langley where you can look – but can’t touch.

The Langley Bog in Derby Reach Regional Park, just west of Fort Langley, constitutes a sensitive ecosystem that was severely damaged by decades of commercial peat moss mining. It has been slowly recovering since the mining stopped in the 1980s.

Add to that the dangers awaiting anyone who treads less than carefully through the treacherous terrain, and the “restricted access” is entirely understandable. Special permits are required to enter into the bog lands.

But people who understand the bog and know its beauty wanted to share.

That’s the inspiration that brought volunteers of the Derby Reach/Brae Island Parks Association together to build a viewing platform at the edge of the bog, off the Houston Trail.

The platform is officially open now, but it has been in use for some time – even before it was finished, said chair Joakim Nilsson, who joined DRBIPA just three years ago.

People “borrowed” lumber intended for the walkway to rig temporary ramps up to the platform because they were unwilling to wait for their chance to experience the breathtaking view of the bog.

The platform, in a carefully chosen location, started with metal foundation posts, set by a company brought in to do the work in a way that created minimal impact to the bog, Nilsson said.

That was in late 2015, and work throughout 2016 was done by dedicated volunteers.

The group partnered with Metro Parks, whose staff oversaw safety aspects and permissions. Metro was also responsible for full wheelchair access with a ramp and walkway.

Money for the project came from Metro, the Pacific Parklands Project, and anonymous donors – one who brought $25,000 to the table.

The platform and approach from the Houston Trail is effectively finished, but signage is still being completed to Metro Parks standards.

It’s about a kilometre in from the Houston Trail parking lot, on mostly level ground, so it’s accessible to folks who might not feel like walking the entire Houston Trail, Nilsson pointed out.

Long-term goal, he explained, is greater public access to appreciate the bog. But safety is an issue, as is the bog’s sensitive ecosystem, which is home to at least 70 species of birds, including a colony of rare sandhill cranes that nests nearby each year.

Special permits with severe restrictions are required to enter the bog lands.

Bog botanist David Clement, of Trinity Western University, recently led a rare bog access event – a two-hour walk taking participants deep into the bog.

Nilsson credits the late Bays Blackhall with much of the impetus to save the bog, as well as creation of the adjacent Houston Trail. In the mid-1980s the bog was threatened by “progress” several times.

It was a suggested location for the southern terminus for a proposed Golden Ears Bridge, and was also one of five shortlisted sites for a metro-area garbage dump, until the idea was scrapped in favour of trucking Lower Mainland waste to Cache Creek.

Prior to that, the bog was extensively mined for peat moss through several decades. Although the bog has been healing, the recovery has been slow, and visual reminders of the operation are everywhere, including the rusting remains of an old peat processing plant that at least one sandhill crane chose as a nursery for its young.

Nilsson is an avid user of the trails throughout the area, and when he joined he responded to an ad seeking people interested in getting involved.

One of the board’s chief aims is to create greater harmony between different park users, such as walker, cyclists, dog walkers, and others.

While there is a private grand opening ceremony planned this weekend, due to the sensitive nature of the facilities, it is not a public event. But to learn more about the bog and the association, people can visit drbipa.org.

Built with love: More than a yera in the making a new, limited-access viewing platform overlooks the Langley Bog. (Special to the Langley Advance)

Built with love: More than a yera in the making a new, limited-access viewing platform overlooks the Langley Bog. (Special to the Langley Advance)

Built with love: More than a yera in the making a new, limited-access viewing platform overlooks the Langley Bog. (Special to the Langley Advance)

Built with love: More than a yera in the making a new, limited-access viewing platform overlooks the Langley Bog. (Special to the Langley Advance)

(Bob Groeneveld/Langley Advance) David Clement points to a handful of native cranberry plants. Commercially grown cranberries are native to Eastern Canada. They co-exist with the native berries, but do not cross-breed.

David Clements, a botanist from Trinity Western University, is an expert on the Langley Bog’s ecology. (Bob Groeneveld/Special to the Langley Advance)

(Bob Groeneveld/Langley Advance) Bog laurel is pretty but poisonous.

Built with love: More than a yera in the making a new, limited-access viewing platform overlooks the Langley Bog. (Special to the Langley Advance)

You can drink Labrador tea, but it has been said that too much could cause you some discomfort. (Bob Groeneveld/Special to the Langley Advance)

Wild blueberries in bloom. (Bob Groeneveld/Special to the Langley Advance)

(Bob Groeneveld/Langley Advance) A view down an old peat mining track. Special permission is needed to access the bog, both for the protection of the bog as it slowly recovers from three decades of mining, and for the safety of people for whom a misstep could mean disappearance into the six-metre-deep bog.

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Bog an ‘environmental treasure chest’ January 27, 2017

Bog an ‘environmental treasure chest’

Bog an ‘environmental treasure chest’

Anne Gosse looks out across the Langley Bog from the end of a newly built viewing platform in Derby Reach Regional Park. - Miranda GATHERCOLE/Langley Times

Anne Gosse looks out across the Langley Bog from the end of a newly built viewing platform in Derby Reach Regional Park.

— Image Credit: Miranda GATHERCOLE/Langley Times

It’s one of Langley’s most remarkable ecosystems, featuring sphagnum moss, abundant native berries and 77 species of birds.

But when Anne Gosse, member of the Derby Reach/Brae Island Parks Association (DRBIPA), tells others about the Langley Bog, most people say, “What bog?”

Consisting of 70 acres of bog forest, 200 acres of mined bog and two bog meadows, the Langley Bog covers a large portion of Derby Reach Regional Park. But for the last century of its existence, it has largely been inaccessible and hidden away from the community — until now.

For the first time, members of the general public can enjoy the raw nature of the Langley Bog, just as Gosse and a select number of biologists and environmentalists have.

A new viewing platform has been constructed off the Houston Trail, about a 15 minute walk from the Allard Crescent parking lot.

Although the information signs and benches have yet to be installed, and an official grand opening is still in the works, the platform is built and accessible to all who walk through the park.

“I just love it here,” Gosse said, while looking across the icy water of the bog through a pair of binoculars.

“This is the only place you can see over the water and this bog.”

The platform offers an expansive, open view of the bog and the towering Coast Mountains in the background. It is also non-invasive, meaning those who come to enjoy the landscape can do so without causing harm to the sensitive ecosystem.

Gosse, who is an avid birder, came up with the idea to construct a platform about a year and a half ago. With the help of the DRBIPA, Pacific Parklands, the Rotary Club of Langley, Metro Vancouver Parks and many volunteers, they were able to bring her vision to fruition.

Prior to this, very few were allowed to access the dangerous area, as the risk of drowning in the marshy waters is very real.

“I’m excited, because now anyone who wants to see birds or the bog can,” Gosse said.

Visitors can also spot an array of species that are unique to bog environments. The Langley Bog boasts shore pines, birch trees, Labrador tea, bog laurel, white tufted cotton grass, wild cranberries, wild blueberries and sundews.

One of the most exciting natural scenes Gosse has witnessed is the nesting of Sandhill Cranes, a rare species in the Lower Mainland.

“Some people don’t realize these bogs are environmental treasure chests,” said Joan Martin, fellow member of the DRBIPA.

“It’s just a place of repose — it’s very relaxing. And I hope that’s what happens, is that people will come here and enjoy.”

What is a bog?

A bog is an area of wet, spongy ground made up of decayed or decaying sphagnum moss (also known as peat), and other vegetation, according to the DRBIPA website.

This slow process of decaying plant matter, taking hundreds of years, has made bogs incredibly important in combating global warming.

In The Bog in Our Backyard, Trinity Western University professor David Clements refers to the larger, more well known Burns Bog as the “lungs for the Lower Mainland” because of its carbon storing ability. It’s estimated that the carbon stored there is equivalent to the annual emissions of 5.4 million cars.

The Langley Bog, although smaller in size, has a similar effect.

“Unlike forest trees or other forms of life, the carbon is retained for very long periods of time, because of the slow rate of decay,” Clements wrote.

“Thus, bogs are great guzzlers of greenhouse gases.”

Metro Vancouver bogs also provide nutrients for the Fraser Delta and act as air conditioners for the environment, he wrote.

An Industrial Past

At one time, the Langley Bog covered an area over 1,300 acres, a Metro Vancouver report estimates.

But now, about 75 per cent of it has been converted into cranberry fields, 10 per cent is undisturbed bog and 15 per cent is harvested bog that was mined for peat moss between 1958 and 1980.

The mining operation, run by Jack Bell’s Langley Peat Limited, used both dry and wet peat extraction operations.

But the Langley Bog, which at that point had never been drained before, proved to be very challenging, Larry Meneely wrote in From Bog to Bag.

The wetness of the bog meant it could take three or four years to dig down just one foot, and a lack of wind in the area made it difficult to dry the peat.

In 1968, a “revolutionary method” was introduce, where peat could be extracted with hydraulic machinery, similar to what’s used in a paper plant. This was undertaken until the operation’s demise in 1980.

Learn More

On Thursday, Feb. 23, the DRBIPA is hosting speaker Dr. Rolf Mathewes, professor of biological sciences at Simon Fraser University, to talk about bogs and other wetlands.

The free event takes place at the Fort Langley Community Hall during the group’s annual general meetings and is open for all to attend.

They will also be hosting their annual apple bake-off, which is also open to all to enter.

The AGM begins at 7:30 p.m., with the presentation at 8:15 p.m. For more information, please visit http://drbipa.org/.

Photos by Miranda GATHERCOLE/Langley Times

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Morseby Explorers Tour August 23 to August 26th, 2016

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The first Europeans who sailed in front of the native villages lining the shores of Hiada Gwaii must have been awe-struck and astonished at the rows of large colorful long-houses, the huge entrance door poles, the many tall clan and ceremonial totem poles – along with the intricately carved canoes. Our goal was to visit these ancient villages – plus see the wild life and experience these mystic and remote islands.

Our Morseby Explorer four-day adventure started as we disembarked the walk-on ferry across Alliard Bay from Skidegate to Sandspit.  With our tour leader and eight other companions assembled we drove along a long dirt road into Morseby Camp where the company’s zodiacs, kayaks and gear were stored. There we were outfitted with rubber boots, rubbers overalls, rubbers coats and a life jacket; – ours for the next four days; they were heavy.

Day 1. – The zodiac had two rows of padded seats facing front-wards that you straddled between your legs with sturdy handles in front to hold on to.  Off we cruised down the Cumshewa Inlet into the Selwyn Inlets heading towards the first native village of Skedans – now called Kuuna.  As a protection from plunder and heft the Hiada have formed a group called “The Watchman” who live at the old ancient sites to greet boating visitors.  Mary, our Watchman at Skedans, led us on a guided tour of this ancient first nations village with its many falling totem poles.  Most of the poles were leaning over, falling and rotting away. The site was once a huge village and home to quite a large population pre 1840.  Although there were not any standing structures now, you could still see the fallen logs and remnants of where large homes used to be.

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Then, on to the floating lodge for the night which was half-way down Gwaii Haanus near Tanu Island. The floating lodge was very comfortable and staffed by two young ladies who fed us some amazingly good food. While there, we watched a group of large Risso’s Dolphin’s feeding in the front waters.       Picture old Tanu 

Day 2 – Early next morning, with our bed sheets, and lunches we geared up for our journey around the exposed headland towards Rose Harbor. We went through the beautiful Burnaby Narrows where we had lunch on a remote lonely beautiful beach.  Then it was off through Skincuttle Inlet towards Benjamin Point to navigate around the headland to our remote and rustic accommodations in Rose Harbour.  On the way we watched several Humpback whales breeching. We also saw White-Sided Dolphins, lots of sea birds such as Surf Scoters, Murrelets, Harliquin Ducks and Oyster Catchers.

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Rose Harbour, was an old whaling station from the early 1900’s near the tip of Gwaii Haanas.  Around the harbor’s beaches, scattered everywhere, were all kinds of old ruins; red brick buildings, rusty drums, large containers, and odd whaling station items. Our old lodge had very basic plank beds, good heavy blankets, and outside toilets –  with ice cream buckets for night time use.  Susan, our Rose Harbour cook, served a tasty supper outside on a round table in the warm sunshine.  Susan and Gutz have lived at Rose Harbor for 30 and 34 years respectively.

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Day 3.  Next morning, after a great breakfast by Susan we set off for home by rounding the exposed headland of Benjamin Point again.  However, the wind and waves were building higher and higher as we proceeded – with white caps spraying heavily backwards their tops stinging and lashing our eyes and faces.  The zodiac fought to crest each large roller and then ski down – before climbing the next. After an intense two and a half hours in these heavy rough seas, we finally reached the shelter of the inner islands and a beach.  Everyone was shivering from the wet, the cold wind and the frightening sea.  Everything was soaking so we tried to dry ourselves and put on whatever dry clothes we could find. We then spread out our wet clothes over the rocks to dry in the sunshine.  After a rest we set off for the floating lodge to get warm and recover.

Day 4.  Our final stop for lunch was at the lovely ancient native village of Tanu now called Taanuu.  It was my favorite place.  It was situated in two half-moon bays with beautiful beaches in warm sunshine. We also walked to a lovely waterfall.  At one time, there were between 25 to 40 longhouses in Tanu and it had been a larger village than Skedans – but did not have any carved totem poles left.  Little is left standing at T’aanuu Llnagaay, but today the spirit of the place is still strong.  The house depressions and moss-covered house posts leave a good sense of the layout of this fairly large village.  We were back at our Morseby Camp by 3:30 pm for the long drive to the Alliford Ferry.  A great and memorable trip.Photo 2016-08-25, 1 09 36 PM.jpg

 

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BRAE ISLAND REGIONAL PARK – LFN SUMMER WALK AUGUST 10TH

IMG_5001BRAE ISLAND REGIONAL PARK – LFN SUMMER WALK AUGUST 10TH 

A Western Toad Walk?  Really!

Recalling our previous summer Bat Walk, one participant suggested after finding 15 large Western Toads hopping across our path that this was a “Toad Walk”!

Ten naturalist, plus four newbies, joined leaders, Joan T and Anne G, to walk to the tip of Brae Island Regional Park on a nice comfortable warm evening.  We came across a few birds; a Coopers Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Canada Geese, Steller’s Jays, Chickadees, and Towhees and the usual Robins and Crows. However, along with the toads we also counted over 35 rabbits hopping everywhere! – reminding us of the beginnings of a biblical plague. A large black bear footprint was found and we posed for a group photo at the tip of the island.  On the way back we tried to find the Barred Owl previously seen with no luck. It was a nice end to a nice evening. Anne G

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EVENING BAT WALK – JULY 20, 2016

EVENDSCN6224ING BAT WALK – JULY 20 – Our leader Kirk led a very fascinating and exciting Bat Walk for the 26 eager Naturalist who joined him.  He was very knowledgeable about bats; telling us lots of fascinating information about these small night flyers. The type of bat at this colony were Little Brown Myotis bats-  who are an endangered species because of “White Nose Disease” – for which there is no cure.  Apparently this virus has been making its way across Canada decimating bat populations.  Also in this colony were Big Brown Myotis bats.  We learned that Little Brown Bats are insectivores, eating moths, wasps, beetles, gnats, mosquitoes, midges and mayflies and using echolocating to find their prey.

Kirk had a “bat monitor” which played the different bat echo calls demonstrating what to listen for.  This monitor also tracked them as they came flying in overhead, their calls telling us which bat specie they were.  They came in over our heads and in between our group for about 20 minutes.  In the evening’s twilight glow, a few people tried to get pictures of this marvel. Our count had reached to over 150 “fly-byes” at approximately 10:00 pm – with more to still coming!  Hearing all the interesting facts about bats and their behavior, proved to be an evening of amazement and wonder.   Our thanks to Kirk for leading us to this local evening spectacle.

“How to take Bat Pictures” by Ian Kakebeeke!

and night shot by Joan Taylor!

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The Eagle and Owl, June 16, 2016

2016-06-09 14.16.11P1000495The Eagle and Owl

Three of us walked out to the tip of Brae Island to check the Purple Martin boxes on June 16, 2016.  We enjoyed a leisurely walk listening to birds and chatting.  Along the way we heard Swainsons Thrushes, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Pacific Wrens, Willow Flycatchers, Pacific Slope Flycatchers, Towhees, Song Sparrows, Robins and a lonely Yellow Warbler. On the point we rested on the bench and watched Tree Swallows making regular return visits to the boxes feeding babies with insects.  On the trail in we had been pleasantly surprised by the sudden appearance of a Bald Eagle swooping down and grasping a small mammal in his talons and lifting off.  A mouse we guessed, however, rabbits were seen feeding in the meadows.  On our way back we came across a lovely Barred Owl sitting in trees beside the trail.  He let us stand quietly watching him for several minutes.  Thrilled with all our day’s encounters we came home very satisfied but with no Purple Martins sightings.

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HISTORY WALK- DERBY REACH PARK, JUNE 11, 2016

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 We stood on top of the old “first fort’s” walls, we trod over thousands of old graves, we listened about other boxed graves that hung from huge cedar trees.  We learned about the complex interactions between two different peoples meeting on the Fraser in 1824. Also, that trading and intermarriage were so very important to the peace and stability.  Why did the fort move to its present location?  Did the first nations also move up stream?  We heard about the old town of Derby and viewed the town plan.  Nearly 30,000 men were camped waiting for permits in 1858,  – but for what?  Where are the Kanaka’s descendants today?  We laughed at the Houston family’s humorous stories.

Thanks Amin for a history talk that held everyone spellbound for nearly two hours!

 

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HIS2016-06-04 09.19.40TORY WALK-  DERBY REACH PARK JUNE 11,

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Mitlenatch Nature Provincial Park- May 17, 2016

 

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This year at the BC Nature Courteney/Comox AGM, I was fortunate enough to join one of the zodiac trips to Mitlenatch Island. The weather had looked iffy, but the island is situated in rain shadow and receives only 30 inches of precipitation per year giving us warm sunshine.

Scrambling up the beach and pulling off our heavy zodiac suits, we walked the low windswept bush “krumholtz” narrowed trails. The island radiated magic, peace, calmness beneath the cry of seabirds and warm sun.  Captivated by the clean smell of the ocean and beautiful ocean scenery, we found many wild flowers and calling birds – including a Virginia Rail.  Our two guides led us to the bird-blind view point to tell us about the nesting seabirds on this amazing island. The island’s nesters are –  Glaucous-winged Gulls, Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorants, Pigeon Guillemot and Oyster Catchers.  Many Harlequin Ducks and Common Murre were also seen on the rocky shores.

Two volunteer live-in caretakers look after this remote island for a week at a time. Perched ten feet away from the caretaker’s cottage’s rustic sun-deck, were Common Murre, Oyster Catchers and Harlequin Ducks. The entrance to the cottage’s tiny cove was guarded by a colony of noisy Steller’s and California Sea Lions. I would have loved to have been a volunteer caretaker in the past.  What a rare and amazing place to visit.  Anne Gosse

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Surrey Bend Park April 23, 2016

Surrey Bend Park April 23, 2016

Nineteen people turned out for our walk in the brand new Surrey Bend Park. They had all waited until the noisy Grand Opening was over to come and see Surrey’s newest and largest park.  We had a cloudy day with just a couple of sprinkles.

We started off on the trail through the lovely huge Cottonwood forest that was alive with bird life high in the canopy in some areas. The lovely big cottonwood trail was carpeted with Lilly of the Valley, Piggyback Plant plus several other wild flowers. Lots of lovely green mosses and ferns bordered the trail as well.  We took a look at the Fraser River on a tiny beach and spoke to two fishermen who told us about catching Sturgeon at times – and of course releasing them.  We heard lots of warblers high in the canopy, Robins, Song sparrows, and Towhees and on the long trail back we heard many Common Yellow Throat and Marsh Wrens and spotted Hummingbirds and Hawks.  We all had an enjoyable day of discovery in a new park to explore and recorded 21 species of birds. Afterwards, several of us lunched on the picnic tables laughing and enjoying tall stories.P1000513P1000519P1000518

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Brownie Troop Nature Walk – LFN 2016

Brownie Troop Nature Walk with Langley Field Naturalist April 18th 2016

On a warm evening in Campbell Valley park, two Langley Field Naturalist members (Anne G & Joan T) greeted 13 young girls from a local Langley Guide/Brownie troop for a nature walk.  Dressed in their orange and navy Brownie uniforms the girls seemed very eager to be off along the trails.  Around the boardwalks we showed them wild flowers – Lilly of the Valley, Bleeding Heart and Salmon Berry, Skunk Cabbage.  We also stopped to observe and listen to some birds and hear their calls. They were very interested in the Common Yellowthroat’s “witchy witchy” spring call and the Pacific Wren’s very long beautiful melody.  However, these 8 and 9 year olds were the most intrigued with caterpillars found along ground on the path, reminding me of the saying “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, he became a beautiful butterfly”, making me reflect that soon, they as well, will bloom into more beautiful butterfly’s.  At the end of the walk, they gathered around we two leaders to sing a chirpy Brownie “Sparks” thank you tune.  Anne G

Pictures with permission of Brownie TroopP1000456.JPGP1000463.JPG

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