SHaRP: How Dedicated Youth Are Protecting Streams in a Developing City
Program is in 27th season and has involved over 660 people in active stream restoration works.
September 28, 2022 - Emilio beams as he carefully steps into greenery at Bothwell Park, gesturing to the creek just feet away. He explains that youth with the Salmon Habitat Restoration Program (SHaRP) have tirelessly worked to improve local ecosystems throughout Surrey.
On this particular July day, dedicated youth with SHaRP and SNAP (Surrey’s Natural Areas Partnership) were busy removing invasive plants and, in the fall, they will complete the project by planting native vegetation.
This is just one of many natural spaces in Surrey that youth improve, protect and steward as part of the long-running SHaRP program. So far this year, the team has enhanced nearly 60,000 square metres of natural space and completed 7 in-stream projects building weirs and placing salmon spawning gravel.
Emilio has been with SHaRP for over a year, starting in the summer of 2021 as a team leader and this year being hired on full-time as the program’s project co-ordinator.
“The SHaRP program gives post-secondary and high school students a chance to apply their passions and what they’re learning in a real-world environment,” he explains. “We have 2 teams, outreach which consists of media and community education initiatives, and watershed enhancement which has the teams actively enhancing Surrey’s streams. All have interests in the environmental field and this program is a practical way to practise what we learn in school.”
SHaRP is a City of Surrey initiative that began in 1996 and has involved over 660 people in active stream restoration works. This year, the program is celebrating its 27th season of stewardship. SHaRP's goal is to protect and improve Surrey's stream habitats as our city grows and develops.
Emilio said in his time working with SHaRP, he’s seen the impact both in the hands-on work they do to better the environment but also in educating the community.
“Surrey is really unique in its drive to not only enhance its green space, but it’s the fastest growing city in Canada, so it’s great to be able to help educate people to understand this space that needs to be protected,” he explained.
“So the difference being made in the community is educating people on the importance of it, but also it puts the future of the city into the hands of the people of the city. The program gives students an opportunity to make a real difference in their backyard. Through our outreach initiatives we aim to engage in park events, rec center programs, schools and summer camp groups, businesses, and landowners to name a few. The bigger our reach the more we hope to educate locals understand and appreciate our environment we live in and build a sense of belonging.”
“I think SHaRP offers a unique experience to engage the City’s youth. It offers youth a chance to participate in enhancing their local environment, educate themselves and others, and gaining valuable career experience all while fostering a sense of ownership around their community.”
Emilio said the City of Surrey deserves credit for prioritizing programs like SHaRP.
“City growth doesn’t mean not protecting the environment. Growth doesn’t hinder our ability to do so. Both can be done, and SHaRP does a great job of showcasing that.”