Daylighting Streams


In urban design and urban planning, daylighting is the redirection of a stream into an above-ground channel. Typically, the goal is to restore a stream of water to a more natural state. Daylighting is intended to improve the riparian environment for a stream which has been previously diverted into a culvert, pipe, or drainage system. 


I was following the hidden waterways on the digital “Vancouver’s Old Streams” map to see which of the streams had the potential to be daylighted in the future. There are some waterways that must exist to some extent, such as pathways that peter out into forested areas and bogs with running water that still see daylight, but most are covered by concrete and are now lost.

Daylighting streams in Vancouver could help the city restore some of its natural environment and resources. For example, Chum salmon are beginning to spawn in the restored waters of “Still Creek” in East Vancouver. Daylighted areas could help educate younger generations on the natural history of the city and promote environmental awareness.


Salmon in Still Creek, East Vancouver

The City of Vancouver is currently in the process of daylighting Hastings Creek. This video by Global TV describes daylighting in Vancouver and the process of bringing salmon back to the province’s waterways. As mentioned, the city is also working on daylighting Still Creek in East Vancouver. In the map, you can see that this area is now completely developed. It seems impossible that a creek once dominated the area. In Sharon Proctor’s book, Vancouver’s Old Streams, there are pictures that show what the waterways, marshes and shorelines looked like prior to urban development compared with pictures of what the area looked like in the 1970’s. I would be interested in comparing old pictures of Vancouver with images of an area after it has been daylighted.

Other examples of daylighting in Vancouver include Thain Creek in North Vancouver and the Spanish Bank Creek  that are working on restoring salmon spawning and wildlife in the area.


Cheong Gye Cheon stream before and after

Essentially, the goal of daylighting is to restore the ecosystem to its original state. The covering of waterways has occurred in cities around the world and only now are some of them starting to be recovered through urban city restoration projects. There are before and after pictures available online from other daylighting projects, such as Newton Creek daylighting in New York City and  The Cheong Gye Cheon in Seoul, Korea.

In addition to major restoration projects, there are small-scale projects in Vancouver that are unveiling the city’s secret waterways. For example, in my interview with Paul Lesack, Data Analyst at UBC, who oversaw the “Vancouver’s Secret Waterways” map, he recounted how he was walking through Vancouver and noticed a sign that identified the existence of a hidden stream beneath the street. This is another way to “daylight” the existence of invisible waterways and bring to light the history of our city. Similarly, the “Yellow Fish Road” campaign and the “Stream of Dreams” project create awareness about the local watershed and pollution of our streams through the recognizable fish painted on the sidewalks and the community art projects on the fences of schools.

If you know of any other daylighted projects in Vancouver or other interesting information or videos about Vancouver’s hidden streams, please share in the comments section below!



February 17, 2015

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