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Artifacts found in Vernon Creek put park project on hold

Stone tools found on each side of creek during archaeological assessment
The City of Vernon’s plan to naturalize Vernon Creek through Polson Park in two phases has been put back by the discovery of stone artifacts along the embankments on both sides of the waterway. (City of Vernon photo)

The discovery of artifacts on each side of Vernon Creek has resulted in the City of Vernon cancelling the Polson Park Vernon Creek Naturalization request for proposal (RFP) for the time being.

An Archaeology Impact Assessment (AIA) was completed in late May with preliminary findings provided to the city in early June. Two items were found during the AIA on the banks of the creek. The findings consist of stone tools and were found on both banks of Vernon Creek.

“While only two artifacts have been found so far, it is likely that more will be encountered during construction,” said staff in an update to council Monday, June 12. “Identifying artifacts before awarding the construction contract is actually a great success, and will avoid significant additional costs.”

For works to take place within the newly identified archaeological site, a Site Alteration Permit issued by the Archaeology Branch must be in place prior to construction.

It is currently taking the Archaeology Branch anywhere from five-to-12 months (and in some cases longer) to issue permits.

“For this reason, it is recommended that construction be delayed until next year,” said the city. “Once a permit is issued construction may begin with archaeological monitoring as a condition of the permit.”

Sample screening of materials that may contain archaeological artifacts will also be required.

The project team is planning to bring forward a project update to council in the summer of 2023 once the final AIA report is received. The project team anticipates posting a revised RFP in the fall with a revised scope of work that includes both phases of the naturalization project.

Construction is now anticipated to start at the end of July 2024 and run to October 2024 with Phase 2 likely starting in 2025.

Naturalization of the channel for Phase 1 will include removal of the existing concrete banks and elongating the channel by meandering it along its current course, lengthening the channel. Naturalization will also add natural features within the meandering channel such as riffle pools and boulders, which will increase natural fish/spawning habitat where there is currently very little.

Naturalizing the channel will increase water quality, fish habitat and riparian complexity and decrease groundwater impacts on the park operations. Naturalizing the channel will also include a floodplain on either side of the main channel to accommodate the larger flooding events. The channel will have shallow slopes and will be planted with natural riparian vegetation and bank armoring to prevent erosion.

This project will also include a new crossing and a new pathway along the southside of the channel where there is currently none.

READ MORE: Construction detours traffic on Vernon’s Silver Star Road

READ MORE: Vernon doles out limited non-profit funds


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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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