For decades, Dave Chitty has run the Salmonids in the Classroom and Gently Down the Creek education programs with Alberni Valley schools. He was one of the people responsible for having the Alberni Valley Enhancement Association’s (AVEA) salmon hatchery and study centre built. And on Sunday, his peers honoured him for his hard work, renaming the centre the Dave Chitty Resource Centre.
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.
“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 it cost $80,000. All the lumber for the building was donated and was cut on the McLean Mill site.
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 Gently Down the Creek program with Chitty for many years, 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. A DVD of the speech was played at the resource centre following the official part of the morning.
Fraser said in an earlier interview that 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. “That was the beginning of my time as an MLA.”
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 and study centre) together,” Leyenaar said.
“It’s a great reward to have one of your friends titled as part of the building,” Leyenaar said. “It goes into the annals of history as being Dave Chitty.”