By Alison Taylor
Veronica Woodruff stands knee-deep in her waders on top of an intricate lacework of sticks and mud.
On either side of the narrow section of creek flowing from One Mile Lake a pile of sticks stands 10 feet high, all pulled from the creek over time.
It’s quiet here, the water still. She bends down and begins removing the sticks from the water, adding to the piles.
“There’s a method to his madness,” she explains, of the tenacious beaver who builds his dam with sticks and mud and even his own waste.
This a battle of wills — what the beaver builds, Woodruff takes down, only to have him rebuild it again in short order. But if the beaver wins out, the area around One Mile will change significantly.
“The access through here needs to be maintained,” explained Woodruff. “It’s a little jewel in the community.
She does this work on a voluntary basis, returning to the dam every few days to prevent flooding on the nearby trails.
The beaver builds this dam to protect his lodge upstream and also to ensure he has a food source under the flooded area.
His work, however, plays havoc with the ecosystem.
Only two weeks ago Woodruff discovered roughly 500 coho salmon stuck above the dam. After she pulled the sticks apart, the salmon were free to move on, and slowly they moved down the river on their long trip to the ocean.
“It was really rewarding last week when all the coho were here,” she said.
She works to not only to ensure the salmon have safe passage out to the ocean and back up to the creek to spawn but also so that residents can enjoy the popular One Mile recreation area.
It’s an important community service, so important that the RCMP have suggested the work as part of a restorative justice program for four local youths.
The youths were involved in explosions last October, which destroyed a port-a-potty at the Pemberton Skate Park and a bear-proof garbage can.
The restorative justice process is an alternative to court proceedings and involves a resolution that includes restitution, formal apologies and community service. Nine teenage boys officially apologized to the community at a December council meeting. Each were responsible for paying $235 to cover the cost of the damaged property.