The forecast called for rain, winds and possibly lightening, but that didn’t stop an intrepid group of cyclists and paddlers to come out on September 20th to take part in the inaugural FraserFEST Coquitlam, part of a province-wide series of family-friendly festivals in communities along the banks of the Fraser River. The festival aims to educate on the Fraser River’s history, culture, and the issues threatening its health, as well as solutions for change.
With the foreboding weather, numbers went down last minute, but a solid group showed up for the historic 25 km cycle and paddle from historic Fort Langley to Colony Farm Regional Park in Coquitlam, located within the Kwikwetlem First Nation’s traditional territory along the Coquitlam River, and served as host site for the 4th FraserFEST festival.
Pedallers and paddlers met early at Colony Farm Regional Park for a light breakfast, and bikes were loaded into a transport vehicle. The group was welcomed by Ed Hall, Kwikwetlem Band Council member and excursion leader and founder of the Rivershed Society of BC, Fin Donnelly, an environmental activist, and local politician. Donnelly is well known for his marathon swims including twice swimming the 1,400 km length of the Fraser River.
“FraserFEST’s goal is to increase watershed awareness of those who live, work and play in the Fraser River Basin, through river adventures and community festivals blending music, art, speakers, food and culture,” said Donnelly. “It is no coincidence communities and cities are built on large and healthy waterways tend to also have healthier financial foundations with more abundance of wealth and prosperity to go around.”
After introductions and lively discussion, participants were shuttled to Fort Langley to begin their adventure, and once there they were greeted by Wendy Dadalt, Metro Vancouver Regional Parks Manager. Bikes were offloaded, and cyclists mounted up and were on their way along a 25 km trail on the north shore of the Fraser River.
Those traveling by canoe were greeted by Jay Lundy of Voyageur Adventures who spoke of how the canoe is a strong symbol of Canada’s culture. He spoke of the early years of Canada, and how we still rely on our waterways to connect us, providing us food, energy, and enjoyment. “As Canadians, we are diverse and we are explorers,” said Lundy.
The paddlers were given a quick overview on the basics, as several participants were new to the skill, and amid a heavy rain, the group was seated in a 34’ voyageur canoe sponsored by the Rivershed Society of BC and were on their way.
From historic Fort Langley, with Donnelly as the stroker, and Doug Radies as the steerperson, the 12 member group paddled past Barnston Island, under the Golden Ears Bridge and by Douglas Island to the mouth of the Coquitlam River. Along the way the weather changed many times, they saw eagles and seals; and the cyclists waited for the canoeists at one point on the trail to cheer them on, before they finished their ride. The canoe team completed their journey on time and were greeted in circle with Kwikwetlem First Nation, and were each given flags to carry into the festival where they enjoyed a hot meal from Pasta Polo. The sun came out over the festival grounds and participants and the public took in live music by The Wilds, informative messages from a variety of speakers, and educational community booths.
“Our early forbearers held many festivals to give thanks to the land and the rivers from whose bounty they thrived. The Fraser River is still one of the largest salmon producing rivers in the world. FraserFEST will culminate with World Rivers Day, the last Sunday in September. Participants are invited to come celebrate the watershed in which they live while enjoying local entertainment and food.” – Rivershed Society of B.C.
There are three more festivals planned this week, in New Westminster Quay on September 24th; in Vancouver at False Creek Fisherman’s Wharf on the 26th; and the final one in North Vancouver at Cates Park on Sept. 27th. FraserFEST will be held annually.
Organizers wish to thank all the sponsors and partners of FraserFEST Coquitlam:
Partners: Trails BC, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, Kwikwetlem First Nation, Coquitlam Watershed Roundtable, Experience the Fraser, Port Moody Ecological Society, Fin Donnelly, South Coast Conservation Program, Tola Yoga & Fitness, Colony Farm Park Association, and, Voyageur Adventures.
FraserFEST sponsors: Tides Canada, Pacific Salmon Foundation, Metro Vancouver, New Westminster, Renewal, City of Vancouver, Greenest City, Black Press Community New Media, the West Ender, Real Estate Foundation of BC, Aaron Gordon Daykin Nordlinger, BC Hydro, Pasta Polo Restaurant, David Suzuki Foundation, New Pathways to Gold, the False Creek Harbour Authority – Fishermen’s Wharf, Clearline CPA, Wesgroup, Hard Rock Casino Vancouver, Creative Transportation Solutions, and the Francis & Hawthorne Realty Team.
You will find more information about FraserFEST at: www.rivershed.com
About The Rivershed Society of BC
The Rivershed Society of BC (RSBC) formed in the wake of Fin Donnelly`s 1995 “Swim for Life” down BC’s longest river, the Fraser River. Since its inception in 1996, the RSBC has been actively delivering public education programs, community initiatives, and building stewardship capacity in the Fraser River Basin. The RSBC is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health of the Fraser River Basin and all those who live within it.
Ms. Robbin Whachell