The Pacific Spirit Regional Park is one of the oldest parks in the city of Vancouver. Situated on the surrounding lands which are owned by the University of British Columbia, it is a preferred spot by the residents of this area because of the lush green enclosures and numerous trees. It is also close to Point Grey which has been in the news lately because of the studies being conducted to bring its cliff erosion problem under check. This park has been declared as a natural preserve by the Government of the state and thus has been given an Electoral Area A classification.
Pacific Spirit Park is frequented by the residents of the city since it provides a quiet and natural place for them to relax in. There are almost a total of 73 km long trails which have been designated for hiking or walking and are used frequently by the residents of this area. A significant part of these trails can also be used for cycling and dog walking.
This study paper is aimed at making observations about the existing Pacific Spirit Regional Park drainage system. The study would include observations about the drainage pattern, the results of the urban development in the area on the drainage system and how these streams and channels have changed with time which form part of this unique drainage system. The details and information shared in this paper have been collected by making use of two methods. First hand data was accumulated through surveys and tours and making observations about the drainage system. Secondly, secondary sources of information have also been used like online journals, manuals, maps of the park etc to gather suitable information for the paper and refer for exact details about the park. The same data has been shared in the different sections of this paper
Uses and benefits of the existing drainage system
Originally, the city of Vancouver had been laid out with a well built drainage system which included a number of small and large streams for surface drainage. The main purpose of these streams was to manage surface drainage like runoff from rain and the sewage of the city. Significant changes have happened to the original drainage system as the city has developed and urbanized. In the present times, it is only at the Pacific Spirit Regional Park in Vancouver where one can get a chance to see these networks of drains which form part of the original drainage system.
- It would make it possible to curb the threat of soil and cliff erosion and minimize damage to the trees and animals in the park since there would be better control on the flow of water
- Storm drains, which are part of the original drainage system, were built so that large amounts of water could be effectively channelized. This is very useful during the monsoon and heavy rain seasons when large amounts of water could result in an increase in the level of runoff. It is also possible to make use of this water for different purposes
- Because of the fast conduction projects for creating residential areas in this part of the city, there has been a severe reduction in the level of water in this region. By making the drainage system a part of a restoration project it is possible to bring the water level up to the desired level.
- The drainage system could also be used to make a significant contribution towards management plans to be implemented to control environmental disturbances.
- Since the drainage system is already in place, less amount of money would have to be spent in restoration of the park, which is a significant advantage.
Drainage Pattern at Pacific Spirit Regional Park
The previous section discussed the advantages of proper and well maintained drainage system for Pacific Spirit Park. This drainage system, as was mentioned earlier, is part of the initial drainage system which was created for Vancouver. The plan for the drainage system, upon close inspection, shows a very high level of coordination and careful planning as the streams have been laid down in a very systematic design, crisscrossing at the right places to provide maximum effectiveness to the drainage system. This shows that when the drainage system was planned there was a particular purpose in mind for which the system and the design of the streams had been designed. The most amazing part about the drainage system is that it is still effective today to a large degree.
The drainage system of the park has been designed to cater and control different levels of water flow. This has been made considering the fact that water runoff is different in different areas depending upon the slope of the land and other factors. The Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District is responsible for owning and operating the spiral drains designed to handle small amounts of water flows which are part of the daily routine in this area. To keep track of the higher volumes of water, greater drains have been designed which are called storm drains. They are useful in collection and displacement of water during monsoons and rainy season. (Parminter, J. 1983)
Another point that begs attention is that the university campus actually separates the entire system and design of the drains in this area into two distinct parts. While the south university campus has remained relatively less developed, it is possible that the planned development in the future could change the design and the ratio of the drainage system as it has made in the northern part of the campus.
Contemporary Conditions drainage system
The water drainage system that one gets to see at the Pacific Spirit Park is part of a larger system that had been used many years back. Since it was built such a long time back, it was expected that the condition of the drain pipes and natural streams would be bad because of constant use and damage. Close observation of the drainage system reveals the following points:
- The original design of the drainage system has been disrupted in many areas. The only part of the original system which is still functional and in working order is the one in pacific Spirit Park. These disruptions have caused a reduction in its ability to control and channel the flow of water since the streams and the drains have been disconnected from the main part of the drainage system.
- Repairing the damage that has been caused to the drainage system is not possible since, in many areas, a significant number of construction has been made over the drainage lines. In other areas, where the lines and streams are still exposed it is possible to repair them with some maintenance activities.
- It is estimated that the average life span of the existing drains is roughly 10 years. Considering this life span, the drains would require periodical maintenance to keep them functional and occasional repair activities as well when they sustain damages.
- It was also observed that some of the drains have been filled in, either by natural causes or on purpose, which has disrupted the flow of water.
Impact of urbanization on Pacific Spirit Regional Park drainage system
The reason behind planning and laying down the drainage system in the city was to able to maintain control over the flow of water at the surface and subsurface level. However, the drainage system has suffered extensive damage as the city has been taken over by a spurt of urbanization and development. In many areas, the system has been completely disrupted, and it is only in the Pacific Spirit Park that the one gets an opportunity to study how the original system was laid out and planned.
This spurt of urbanization and the growth in the city, while have caused lasting damage to the drainage system, have also caused environmental disturbances. There has been rapid depletion of natural resources and much of the land has been cleared for construction. The Park itself has been faced with many environmental problems which can be clearly seen in the part of the north campus of the University of British Columbia. These problems have been enumerated below.
- The park and surrounding areas are facing the problem of erosion of the cliffs
- Since the number of people who frequent, the park has increased there has been an increase in the damage caused to the natural resources of the park due to human intervention.
- The water level in the park has depleted considerably in the park as well as in the areas of the University
- Cutting down the trees has led to an increase in the number of runoff due to water
Over the years, the drainage system has been severely affected because of the urban development. Vancouver: A visual history, a book written about the history of the city and its first settlement says that the original plan for the drainage system had been first made as far back as in 1850s. This was the time of arrival of the first colonies in this area. Through the years, much of the topography of this area has changed, and the streams and drains which had been part of the original system have either been buried beneath the buildings or have been disrupted to make way for modern sewage systems. In the Pacific Spirit Park itself, some of the areas have seen a recession in the water level because the streams that brought water to their catchment areas have been removed. Deforestation and depletion of natural resources to make space for residential and commercial development has also made this problem worse, resulting in water runoffs to the rivers and streams which lie beyond the Park. The decrease in water level is a matter of concern it is putting the trees, shrubbery and the animals that reside in the park at risk.
The urban development around the University has also affected the existence of the many creeks which were part of the drainage system. These creeks have suffered significant alteration over the span of the last 30 years. This has caused the design of the natural drainage system to change and alter its course. Booming Ground Creek, Botanical Garden Creek and Trail 7 Creek are names of some of the streams which were part of the original drainage system, but which have now been affected because of this urban development.( Parminter, J. 1983)
However, if the drainage system is kept functional and integrated with restoration projects, keeping the environmental problems in view, it can contribute towards a solution of these problems and can play a significant role in bringing back the ecological balance in this area in the future. Studies have revealed that the drainage system can help in reinstating a balance and controlling the effects of cliff erosion which have been causing major disturbances in the area because of the storm runoffs. The drainage system can also be made a part of the environmental protection zone and wildlife refuge to control and preserve the natural resources in the park. It can be of significant help in increasing the quality of the water in the area and enhancing the natural drainage patterns which are connected from the original system of drainage.
The drainage design at the Pacific Spirit Regional Park is one of the oldest in the city. This study has shown that, since its construction, the drainage system has made significant contributions in helping channelize the water flow and bringing it under control. Even though today most of the system has been disrupted and destroyed because of construction and urban development, the parts that remain can be used in ensuring that the park does not meet any more significant damage and also the surrounding areas of the park.
- The most important contribution of the drainage system can be in controlling and managing cliff erosion. This can be done by addressing the problem of drainage of storm water which can be made through the drainage system.
- Preservation of natural drainage systems and drain patterns can make a major contribution when creating ecologically sensitive zones. Sensitive environmental zones and areas within the park and in the surrounding University grounds also demand special attention for their upkeep.
- Steps should also be taken to protect the part of the drainage system that is still in place at the park. This can be done by declaring certain areas in the park as zones where the focus would be on Environment Protection. Also since access of these areas would get limited it would be possible to reduce the amount of damage caused by human intervention.
- Construction of two drainage structures or special catchment basins near the Bog area of the park can help to bring up the water level in the park anthem surrounding areas, as well.
A study conducted for the purpose of this paper has played a very important role in bringing to light the fact that the original drainage model system was immensely valuable with regard to channelization and effective use of water. Its preservation and integration with environmental research, as well as restoration plans, can be very useful for the Park and the surrounding areas.
Parminter, J. 1983. Fire-ecological relationships for the biogeoclimatic zones and sub zones of
the Fort Nelson Timber Supply Area: summary report. Planning, Development, and Research
Section, Protection Branch, Ministry of Forests. Victoria, B.C. iii + 53 p.