The City of Burnaby and the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers are asking the public to keep an eye out for a man who appears to be blazing his own creekside trails and damaging the environment in the process.
The streamkeepers have spent years rehabilitating the natural habitat around the south Burnaby waterway, making it more hospitable to salmon and wildlife, and they are upset that someone is undoing their work.
"We're seeing trails cut, branches torn off, trees cut down, salmonberry bushes and ferns torn out - it's distressing," said Paul Cipywnyk, president of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society. "Our members put in hundreds of volunteer hours every year, and we've planted some of those trees with city permission. It's so sad to see someone thoughtlessly cutting them down."
Cipywnyk said the streamkeepers have been photographing damage and reporting it to city staff. Most of the destruction is along the creekside, at the lower end, close to Southridge Drive. Cipywnyk said it appears the person is cutting small trails, off the main trail, towards the creek.
"City staff are also appalled and are very supportive," said Cipywnyk. "We're working together to quickly come up with ways to educate folks that such behaviour is unacceptable."
According to Melinda Yong, an environmental technician with the City of Burnaby, it's not uncommon to find damage in local parks, unintentionally inflicted by people who go off trails or to explore new areas, or who let their dog roam off-leash.
Yong has seen the photos of the damage and has received phone calls from the public, reporting a man breaking off twigs and removing plants, presumably to create new trails. Only one area resident has seen the guy, who is described as about 5-9 or 5-10 tall, with very thick, black curly hair and a weathered face, and he usually comes out in the early evening. It started with one trail, but the streamkeepers have found more.
"We can't really do anything until someone catches him, but it's usually after hours," Yong said. "The concern now is he's done a couple of trails. ... We don't know why this man is doing it. If he think he's being helpful, there's a negative side to creating trails."
Yong said it's unfortunate when members of the public go in and destroy fragments of our natural areas.
"We have such small green spaces left, and whenever you tromp a plant, it's so difficult for it to re-establish," she said.
Yong said the streamkeepers and the city have talked about putting up notices in the area, but there's a concern about cluttering the woods with signs that many people ignore anyway.
Burnaby RCMP want people to call police and not intervene if they witness anything. Cipywnyk was grateful for the reports received so far.
"We thank everyone who has contacted our group, and we encourage the public to pass any tips on to Burnaby RCMP," he said. "We hope the person or persons involved will read this and stop their destructive behaviour. We don't aim to be punitive; we just want the damage to end. We're hoping this is not malicious and that perhaps someone simply doesn't understand the negative impact of such actions. We are very fortunate to have jewels like Byrne Creek Ravine Park in our midst, and we should treat such green havens with respect."
To report any environmental damage to the city, call Yong at 604-294-7690. If you catch someone in the act, call the police non-emergency line at 604-294-7922.
For more information on the streamkeepers, visit www.byrnecreek.org.