Like the swallows to Capistrano, for me the great harbingers of spring is the annual Castlegar Fly-fishing Symposium and the first emergence of pteronarcys californica on the mighty Columbia River.
As an avid fly fisher I look forward to both so when I was out wading the mouth of Beaver Creek Sunday where it flows into the Columbia, I was pleasantly relieved to find stoneflies and mayflies emerging from the stream.
As I tied on a fly, I noted a flutter out of the corner of my eye. It was the unmistakable if not graceless flight of one of the largest species of stonefly called pteronarcys californica, also known as the salmonfly. I plucked it mid-air and noted the cluster of eggs on its orange abdomen poised for release into the stream.
Once the eggs are laid the insect soon dies. It happens with a variety of species, the stones and mayflies wait a long time to breed, do so only once, and then promptly die. It’s called semelparity and as naturalist David Quammen describes it, “The act of sexual procreation proves to be ecstatically fatal, fatally ecstatic.”
But the presence of the stone and mayflies has even greater significance. They indicate a healthy ecosystem. Where there is a good stone and mayfly hatch there is usually clean water, something that hasn’t always been so on the Columbia.
The Columbia River has undergone a renaissance when it comes to fishing and it is time the City of Trail herald its own rebirth.
Teck and Celgar have done an admirable job of remediation although they were somewhat obliged to by the government. “Accidents” still happen, but the river is now a productive if not world-class fishery and residents and stakeholders like Sandy Santori, chair of the Lower Columbia Initiatives, intend to showcase it.
The LCI recently received a cheque from BC Hydro to help fund a $30,000 study to come up with a conceptual plan for a museum and interpretive centre, highlighting the river and its history.
Yet much like the life of a mayfly, many of Trail’s recent studies have been fatally ecstatic and ecstatically fatal.
They emerge with great pomp and circumstance, “strut and fret their hour upon the stage and then are heard no more.”
Off the top of my head I can think of studies for the museum, affordable housing, skatepark, old bridge, core revitalization, sewer reviews, and the best yet, the amalgamation of Warfield and Trail and another on Beaver Valley and Montrose.
The proponents are undertaking studies to see if a study is needed.
I don’t question the necessity of these inquiries but I do wonder at their efficacy and redundancy. The amount of money, time, and effort put into these studies would make a sizeable dent in one of many projects on the list.
Whatever became of last May’s cultural plan funded by the Rossland and Trail arts councils?
Did we really need to fund an image study where researchers investigated what non-residents and residents thought of Trail compared to other communities?
Is there something wrong with the 1983 downtown revitalization plan or the revite plan of 1988, or the 2000 Facilities Needs study that recommended a new City Hall, Library, art gallery, Museum and Cultural/Heritage building not to mention past skateboard park studies that are being undertaken again.
Perhaps the real solution to end the studies is by actually completing something. I know those involved like Santori are dedicated, care a great deal for their community, and are working hard to realize positive change.
Unfortunately, government and taxpayers cannot absorb all the costs. As Santori recognizes, the key is to partnering with private corporations like Teck, BC Hydro, Fortis etc.
Heck, where there was once desolate hillsides and a river bottom smothered with slag, there are now stoneflies and mayflies emerging, trout flourishing on the Columbia, trees budding on the surrounding hills, and newly forged committees committed to seeing improvements in the social infrastructure and core.
These studies need to morph into something substantial – it is spring after all, a season of new beginnings, new hopes and good fishing – let’s land one.