In ancient Greece, streams were considered to be sacred and life-giving. The people believed that every stream was protected by a water nymph known as a Naiad. The Naiads were not immortal, but they did live for thousands of years. However, their lives depended upon the survival of their associated streams. If the streams were lost, the Naiads were lost. To secure their protection, people sacrificed lambs and goats and offered honey, wine, and olive oil to the Naiads.
Once in the Victoria area, a stream meandered over 8 kilometres through Garry oak woodlands and meadows to the sea near Willows Beach. It was a source of fresh water for local Coast Salish people and it supported salmon and trout. The stream was known as the Thames because it was the largest stream in the area. Today it is named Bowker Creek.
As development proceeded, Bowker Creek was forced underground to run through culverts and pipes for 63% of its length. Its watershed, instead of acting as a sponge and filter, now drains roads, parking lots and other impenetrable surfaces, resulting in flooding/drought conditions and poor water quality. Salmon habitat was lost. It could be said that the Naiad of the stream was ailing.
Over the last several years, residents have come to care about the stream’s health. A 100 year vision for the Bowker Creek watershed was published in 2012. The vision includes increasing “daylighting” of the stream, that is, freeing it from the confining underground pipes and culverts.
Author Barbara Julian has walked the length of the creek and was inspired to produce a booklet called Walking Bowker: Befriending An Urban Creek. The booklet and photos of Bowker Creek will be unveiled this Sunday, March 9, 2014 from 3 to 5 pm at Moka House, 1769 Fort Street at Richmond Avenue. At the event, I will read about Bowker Creek from my book, The Key to Mythic Victoria. The Bowker Creek photo show will be on display at Moka House from March 2-30th, then at Serious Coffee on 2080 Oak Bay Avenue from March 30 – April 30th.
If a stream disappears, its resident Naiad dies. But according to Homer, Naiads do spend time weaving in a sacred cave, suggesting the idea they may be able to survive for a time underground. With citizen support, the vision for Bowker Creek can lead to changes that will revitalize the watercourse and restore its ailing Naiad to health. Please come to the Moka House this Sunday and be inspired by the Naiad of Bowker Creek.