Alberni hatchery centre named after veteran steward

Alberni hatchery steward Dave Chitty was immortalized by having the AV Enhancement Association name its hatchery resource centre after him.

Longtime Alberni Valley Enhancement Association member Dave Chitty was honoured by having the the resource centre at the association's salmon hatchery named after him.

For 40 years, Dave Chitty brought the outdoors into his classroom as a teacher. A native of New Zealand with a propensity for pranks, Chitty has always been involved in outdoor education.

“I love the outdoors and I love to get kids involved in all sorts of things outside the classroom,” he said.

When he first heard about a program called Salmonids in the Classroom, he thought it would be a natural fit: teach his students about the life cycle of a salmon by growing fry in large garbage cans in the classroom, then send them off to be released back into their natural habitat.

That started a decades long love affair with salmon stewardship for Chitty. “I learned with the kids,” he recalled this week.

“I had a heck of a lot of fun doing it. And it’s all grown from that. My love of the outdoors and to try and have as many people as possible understand fish and forests are all connected, somehow.”

Last weekend his relationship with nature was validated when his friends and colleagues unveiled the Dave Chitty Resource Centre at the Alberni Valley Enhancement Association’s Salmon Hatchery.

Chitty, whose health has been failing the past year, grinned as more than two dozen people gathered in the sunshine around the newly-minted sign at the hatchery, located alongside Kitsuksis Creek at McLean Mill. He was one of the people responsible for having the hatchery and resource centre built.

“I’m overwhelmed and humbled,” Chitty said.

Only the study centre will bear Chitty’s name, hatchery volunteer Jake Leyenaar said. The rest of the facility will still be known as the Alberni Valley Enhancement Association Salmon Hatchery.

The stories were flowing as fast as the creek after the formal part of the morning, as Chitty regaled the crowd with the tale of how he managed to finagle government funding for the hatchery when it was built in 1992.

Chitty’s experience with salmon in the classroom led to the formation 20 years ago of Gently Down the Creek, a program that all Alberni Valley students sooner or later experience at the hatchery. They see first hand how the fish are raised from fertilized eggs in the hatchery, and eventually released into nearby Kitsuksis Creek or any number of other creeks in the region.

In addition to his role as educational co-ordinator, Chitty became involved with efforts to revive salmon stocks in Cherry Creek and its tributaries, the Kitsuksis and around Sproat Lake.

He and a legion of others who share his dedication have done this, he says, in spite of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Chitty looked around at the resource centre that now bears his name, and said, “this is what it’s all about. It’s hands on. When the kids come out here, we guarantee they’re going to get wet.”

He said Gently Down the Creek is a program “this community needs to guard jealously.”

Biologist Dave Clough, who has run the program with Chitty since the beginning, put together a slide show of the last 10 years of Chitty’s involvement with the AVEA and the hatchery. Clough choked up when thanking Chitty for his mentorship.

“You have been my inspiration for so long. I am who I am because of you,” he said.

Clough and Chitty have been working together since 1991.

Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser also honoured Chitty with a certificate and a speech in the legislature—a copy of which was printed in the official Hansard record. Fraser managed to make his two-minute speech on budget day, something he said was difficult to do.

Fraser lauded Chitty’s dedication to salmon enhancement in the Alberni Valley. “Dave Chitty has helped educate a generation that spans the globe,” Fraser said.

Fraser said Chitty helped him immensely when he was first elected as an MLA. “One of my first meetings he started educating me about stream health in the Valley,” Fraser said.

Leyenaar said the idea to name the study or resource centre after Chitty was first brought up at a Pacific Salmon Foundation dinner. Two foundation members asked the AVEA if they would be willing to change the name of the centre.

“We had no problem with that at all, seeing as it was Dave that got the idea of this (hatchery) together,” Leyenaar said.

“It’s a great reward to have one of your friends titled as part of the building. It goes into the annals of history as being Dave Chitty.”

editor@albernivalleynews.com

Just Posted

Team Harrison prevails in Port Alberni men’s bonspiel

Annual bonspiel drew 20 teams from out of town

Wedding plans derailed following City of Port Alberni’s train announcement

Five wedding parties are scrambling to find alternate transportation arrangements to McLean… Continue reading

Kids help Alberni Aquarium build rockfish luminary for next exhibit

Swimming For Change takes over in time for spring break

Spring fishery closures mulled for south coast

Fewer fish are returning to rivers and more conservation needed, say feds

One dead, two seriously injured in Hwy 4 crash west of Port Alberni

A man has died following a single-vehicle collision west of Port Alberni… Continue reading

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Pope’s sex abuse prevention summit explained

It’s A high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops the global problem

B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Girl heard saying ‘Help my Dad’ in suspicious radio message on Vancouver Island

Police asking for help following mysterious signals from somewhere between Comox and Sayward

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Most Read