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crabapple creek

By Amy Fendley Whistler’s most important trout-bearing stream is the subject of a new watershed management plan. Tina Symko is a graduate student in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University. She is also the co-ordinator of the Crabapple Creek Watershed Management Plan, the title of her major research project which she is implementing with the assistance of the municipality and the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group. The watershed management plan that she is developing for the Crabapple Creek community is to protect and restore the overall health of the watershed. "The purpose of the plan is to protect and restore Crabapple Creek, which is a lot smaller and therefore more manageable than Fitzsimmons Creek or even Whistler Creek," says Symko. "The initial plan was just to have me doing an interpretative plan, signage and restoration, but as I talked to more people, I got more of a handle on things." Crabapple Creek, also known as Archibald Creek, drains an area of approximately five square kilometres from its headwaters on Whistler Mountain, through Sunridge Place, Brio, and the Whistler Golf Course to the confluence where it joins the River of Golden Dreams near Lorimer Road. Crabapple Creek, like many other urban watersheds, has felt the impacts of development. Various streams within the watershed have had their bank-side vegetation removed, been put through culverts and been channelled into ditches. Much of the land within the area has been paved for roads and housing developments, activities which often lead to stream bank erosion, water sedimentation and increased runoff flows, all of which can greatly reduce the quality of in-stream habitat for fish. Despite these factors, the lower reaches of Crabapple Creek currently provide the best spawning habitat for Rainbow trout in the Whistler Valley. Rainbow trout spawn in the lower reaches of Crabapple Creek during late spring for several years in a row. Fry emerge from the gravel around late summer and spend a few years rearing in the deep pools in the creek, the River of Golden Dreams, and Alta Lake before returning upstream to spawn. Kokanee salmon spawn only once in the fall at about four years of age, their fry emerging in winter to begin the cycle again. Symko’s plan will establish a watershed vision, objectives, guidelines, actions and implementation opportunities for restoring and maintaining the integrity of this local ecosystem. Whistler-Blackcomb has recognized the importance of Crabapple Creek, aligning the two new high-speed quad chairs it is installing this summer so that they do not interfere with the creek. Skiers will not have to cross either Crabapple or Alder Creek, both of which run through the midstation area serviced by the two new chairs. A draft of Symko’s plan, a living document, will be brought forth later this summer and further community input will be sought to help make the plan as appropriate and effective as possible. One of Symko’s classroom peers is Dave Waldron, best known in Whistler as the architect of the Whistler Environmental Strategy, a document which is still in draft form. "Waldron is how I got involved with Whistler. I’m pretty passionate about streams, there’s something about the water, and he said there was a lot of work to be done here," says Symko, 25.