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Sechelt Marsh

Ebbtide St entrance (Robert Allen 21 December 2012)

History of the Sechelt Marsh

A history of the Marsh should be prefaced with a short summary of events in Sechelt.

For the Sechelt Indian Band (Shishalh First Nation) and early settlers, the development of Trail Bay as a port by Union Steamships in the 1880's must surely stand out.

A trip to Sechelt became an event for adventurers and sea-minded visitors, a "Resort Destination" as described in a Union Steamships brochure. Of course it also carried locals, their friends and family, and tons of merchandise for sale and trade.

Steamship 'Sechelt' 1910

Initiation of a ferry service to Gibsons, then the road to Gibsons in 1951, coupled with love of the family car, eventually eclipsed the steamship business, which morphed to a smaller enterprise, and then ceased operation in 1959 after 70 years of service.

The influx of visitors and settlers led to significant land development. Sechelt was boggy, and so bog excavation and fill became part of the culture. Teredo Square, for example, was once a bog, which filled with water during the high tides in winter.

Goods also came in through Sechelt Inlet, and the site of the current wharf on Porpoise Bay was found to be an excellent location for a landing and dock, then a wharf in 1904. Goods could be carted along Wharf Street at low tide. At high tide there was some wading to be done, as the alternative was a steep hill (Anchor Road) to connect to narrow logging roads. Fill was brought in, a bridge was built to accommodate the tide flows, and the Sechelt Marsh was delineated.

Nature lovers initiated a plebiscite to have the city acquire the whole Porpoise Bay shoreline, and create a park. Alas this was before it's time, and was defeated in 1964. Rivtow Straits and Seaway Estates laid out plans in 1973 for commercial and private property and a marina which were approved to give the layout essentially as today.

Enter the Sechelt bog culture, and a proposal was formulated by Glenmont holdings to drain and fill the marsh, and develop the land along lines well understood by residents and developers. Wisely the city did not put this to a vote immediately, and Alderman Norman Watson got a group together to try and save the marsh. This group was supported by John Rodgers, an ornithologist from Sechelt, the Sechelt Garden Club, and R.D. Harris from the Canadian Wildlife Service. Mr. Harris suggested a proposal to the Natural Second Century Fund of BC, now The Nature Trust of BC, to purchase the property and keep it in its natural state. This fund agreed, purchased the property in 1975, and leased it to the city for 99 years. The city then sub-leased the property to the Sechelt Marsh Protective Society in 1979, with charter members: Norman Watson, M. Bernel Gordon, Douglas J. Roy, Len Van Egmond, Gunnar Roy Wigard, and Nell S. Jager.

Keep in mind that the marsh was really a bog at this time, wet at high tide and dry otherwise. The central pond and the path were only in the planning stage, and the boundaries were vague at best. Volunteers worked hard and slowly shaped the marsh. A grant from BC Hydro, fund raisers, and donations by local businesses raised money to dredge the marsh and develop the current island. A path was outlined and strengthened, and bridges and railings built.

Sechelt Marsh 1981

As work progressed, Vince Bracewell, John Hind-Smith and Barry Janyk gave generously of their time and effort to develop the marsh. Tony Greenfield has been continuously involved with the Marsh for 30 years to date, as worker, writer, author, and Chairman of the SCNHS. The marsh has truly been a community project, with a broad base and many, many individuals who have given generously of their time and effort.

The Sechelt Marsh Protective Society name was changed to The Sunshine Coast Natural History Society (SCNHS) in 1994, to recognize its broader base of activities. The SCNHS was granted a sub-lease for 20 more years in 1999, beginning a new era of cooperative Marsh development and maintenance with the Parks and Recreation Department of the District of Sechelt.

In this 21st century, five new benches were introduced, and wooden bridges replaced with aluminum structures. Attractive fences now completely define the marsh, and invasive foreign plant species have been challenged, if not beaten. There are still winter floods, which restrict access from time to time, a reminder of nature's force in the not-so distant past.

A very high tide (John Hodges 21 December 2012)


Important events:

1970 Marsh a dumping ground for sawdust, stumps, and brush. Smelly and unsightly

1973 Marsh idea proposed to Council by Doug Roy. Taken up by Alderman Norm Watson

1975 Sechelt Marsh Protective Society (SMPS) registered with goal to save the marsh

1975 National Second Century Fund of BC (NSCF) purchases Marsh property from Len Van Egmond for $50,000

1975 Marsh property leased by NSCF to the Village of Sechelt for 99 years. Sechelt Marsh Protective Society recognised in lease as custodian

1979 Sub-lease for 20 years to the Sechelt Marsh Protective Society by the Village of Sechelt, now the District of Sechelt

1984 National Second Century Fund of BC becomes Nature Trust of BC

1988 Lot 48 "Skwil Skw'alsh" purchased by District of Sechelt; SMPS made custodian

1994 SMPS becomes Sunshine Coast Natural History Society

1994/99 Significant improvements in Marsh

1999 Sub lease for 20 years to the SCNHS by the District of Sechelt. Cairn re-dedication

2003 Sechelt Marsh designated as 5741 Wharf Street

2012 North line surveyed and fenced. Lot 48 "Skwil Skw'alsh" clean up, fence and signage

Sechelt Marsh 2010

This is issue #1, Barry Pruden, December 29, 2012. Unlike the Cairn at the Sechelt Marsh, this history will not be set in stone, and accordingly will be modified from time to time…