Geography instructor works alongside students
By Colten Kamlade, Staff Reporter
Mike McPhee, a geography and environment instructor at Douglas College, has discovered several “lost streams” in New Westminster, according to a press release issued by the college.
McPhee and his research team spent the past two years poring over old maps, photos, books and other historical records to map streams that were destroyed as New Westminister developed over the years. The team working on the project includes McPhee, local historian Archie Miller, and students Sarah Lison and Nedene De Guzman.
McPhee said he was eager to involve his students in his research, according to a report by the New Westminster Record published in 2015, when the lost streams project began.
“I was aware of other municipalities that had done this sort of thing, so I approached the city and they were really keen,” McPhee told the Record. “I had this idea for a while and I just thought it was a great opportunity to get some students involved to give them some experiential learning.”
The project started in McPhee’s classroom, according to a statement by McPhee published on the official website of the lost streams project.
“The origins of the Lost Streams of New Westminster project are my geography classes at Douglas College and my interest in natural history,” McPhee said in the statement. “I thought it would be interesting to engage students and the community in trying to locate and map the ‘lost’ streams of New Westminster.”
McPhee also said in the statement that tours inspired the project.
“In my classes I have students visualize what New Westminster would have looked like prior to its settlement by Europeans,” he said in the statement. “In doing walks through downtown New Westminster with students, our guide, local historian Archie Miller, would often point out where bridges were built and if one listened carefully, you might hear water running beneath buildings.”
McPhee said in the statement that it wasn’t easy to find the lost streams.
“Finding lost streams is like detective work,” he said. “I originally thought it would be straightforward—find old maps, old photos, and other historical records and locate the streams. However, it proved to be challenging.”
Jaimie McEvoy, a New Westminster city councillor, said the data uncovered by McPhee and his team will be useful in city-planning endeavours, according to the Douglas College press release.
“This work will help guide future separated storm systems as well as mimic the environmental function of streams and watersheds that pre-date development,” McEvoy said in the press release.