Some Byrne Creek History in SE Burnaby

I was contacted recently by someone wanting to know about the nature interpretive sign installed at Griffith’s Pond on Byrne Creek near Edmonds Skytrain Station in SE Burnaby, BC.

In particular the person was curious about who put the sign up, and why there was no mention of First Nations. Here’s a response that I put together:

Hi there, thank you for your interest. I don’t know all the answers to your questions, but I’ll give it a shot.

The signs were installed by the City decades ago. Yes, I agree it would be excellent to have them updated with the addition of information about local First Nations.

You can see simply by wandering/driving around Burnaby, or any other municipality around here that most names reflect settler names, places, and origins.

For example, in our ‘hood we have Nelson, Victory, Royal Oak, Imperial. . . Burnaby itself, and Burnaby Lake and Burnaby Mountain are named after a Brit who actually spent little time here, though he was active in Victoria (hey, there’s another name, eh?) for several years.

As for Byrne Creek, I have no idea how it was referred to by First Nations. Byrne rerouted and channeled the lower portion of the creek in 1893, likely for logging- and farming-related reasons.

As far as I know, there is no historical record of where Byrne Creek entered the river in its original unaltered state. It likely just dissipated into the vast wetlands and bogs that used to be on the south slope flats.

There is some information on the City of Burnaby’s website and some historical maps:

I know that over the last several years the Burnaby Village Museum has been making efforts to incorporate more First Nations history and knowledge into its displays and activities. From what I’ve read, it appears that First Nations did not have permanent settlements in south Burnaby, but regularly used the area for fishing, hunting, berry picking, etc.

As for the impact of diverting the creek, it basically destroyed it as a fish-bearing system for decades, at least for anadromous fish like salmon that move between fresh and saltwater over their life cycle. The bottom end of the diked ditch passed through a pump that did not allow fish passage.

The City of Burnaby rerouted the ditch some 35-40 years ago and installed flap gates at the mouth that allow fish passage. Volunteers from fish and game clubs, in concert with the DFO and the City, began restocking the creek starting in the late 1980s. It was basically a handful of older white guys who initiated cleaning up Byrne Creek and working with the various levels of government to get fish back.

There was a massive fish kill in 1998 that wiped out the entire creek when someone dumped a toxin down a street drain. That galvanized the community to form a streamkeeper group to help care for the creek.