Two Terrific Volunteers!

 In Front Page Programs, Volunteers

Old Field Creek Fish Hatchery logoThe New Mossom Creek Hatchery and Educational Centre is open. Building this new facility was a large, complicated undertaking for a volunteer organization, but fortunately the right volunteers with the right skills showed up at just the right time. Of particular note are two individuals who played key roles throughout the construction.

Mmel steemsonel Steemson has lived in Mossom Creek’s neighbourhood since 1997. He often walked in the area and was familiar with the hatchery, but not directly involved until the fire destroyed the building. He was retired and wanted to stay active, so he thought he might help out a little bit. That ‘little help’ turned out to be more than 1000 hours of hard work and dedicated contributions as he became a key volunteer in rebuilding the Mossom Creek hatchery.

As Pat Dennett construction manager and also a volunteer) puts it, “Mel not only assisted me throughout the project, he saved my sanity.” When Mel began volunteering on the project, Pat quickly noted his expertise and asked him to manage the plumbing side of the rebuild. This is a critical part of the project, given the links between stream and building. Creek water is fed into the building, routed through the tubs and tanks and returned to the creek, requiring meticulous planning and installation in order to protect the stream, manage water use, and ensure water quality for the fish. As is his habit, Mel quietly set to work and delivered first rate results.

Working with fish was an entirely new experience for Mel, “I knew nothing about them, before volunteering here.” However his background (extensive experience as a Power Engineer, working for various utilities in Calgary and BC for over 35 years) meant that he understood all aspects of projects, large and small. His volunteer contributions as assistant construction manager (donating over 100 hours a month for nearly a year) were invaluable as the rebuild project progressed on budget and on schedule. He also admits to being something of a handyman at home, a skill that was immediately called upon at the hatchery and a role he continues to play as the project winds down. Truly Mel’s volunteering is Mossom Creek’s great, good luck.

neil laffrNeil Laffra first visited the Hatchery in October 2013. “I love photography, particularly of nature, and someone suggested I visit Mossom Creek.” Within 20 minutes of his first visit, Neil knew he wanted to support the program and paid his $5 to become a member. An egg take was scheduled for the next week and Neil thought it would make a great photo opportunity. It turned out to be more than that. As he participated in the ‘take’, he found himself becoming personally involved and has been actively working with the Hatchery ever since. “Not only is it a chance to get away from the ‘asphalt jungle’, it has been an ongoing learning experience.”

Neil remembers the shock of the fire and sense of loss vividly. He also remembers the instant response. “The very next Sunday, we were all there sharing coffee and muffins, standing under an awning, talking about how to rebuild.” As the rebuild project progressed from design to construction, Neil became more and more involved. Throughout the construction phase, Neil was on site several days a week working with Construction Manager Pat Dennett and Mel Steemson. As Pat reports, “Neil became our key ‘go-to’ guy.”

Neil’s photography skills were well used during the rebuild as he documented the various stages of construction, while continuing his nature photography. He also began actively posting pictures on the Hatchery’s Facebook site. During construction, there was limited access to the site. “Through Facebook, we could show people what was going on and keep them in touch with the nature they were missing.” Neil continues to come to the Hatchery several times a week and has become increasingly active in managing the hatchery section. Be sure to continue checking Mossom Creek’s Facebook page for more updates and more of his excellent photographs.

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