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Coho Festival returns to Ambleside Park today

After a two-year hiatus, the North Shore staple is back with swimming races, and a day of opportunities to learn about waterway stewardship
A child learns about ocean wildlife in the stewardship zone at the 2014 festival.

A North Shore favourite and important fundraiser for local wildlife preservation is back after a two-year hiatus.

Coho Festival returns to Ambleside Park in West Vancouver today (Sunday, Sept. 11), for a day of celebration and learning about restoring health to waterways and the wildlife that inhabit them.

The day kicked off at 9 a.m., with an expected 50 people donning wetsuits for the Coho Swim from Ambleside Beach near the welcoming totem pole, which marks the entrance to the Capilano watershed.

The 1.5- and three-kilometre swimming routes mimic the migratory patterns of coho and other native salmon species have taken for thousands of years, according to the Coho Society. Medals will be awarded to the top athletes.

At 11 a.m., the 43rd annual Coho Festival opened to the public with programming running until 6 p.m. The long-running event is held by the North Shore’s Coho Society to highlight environmental protection and nature’s annual miracle of salmon returning to local rivers and streams. Over the years, the society has raised more than $500,000 – mainly from the festival – towards the rehabilitation of North Shore salmon streams.

A series of “tent talks” will cover topics including new discoveries about coho salmon finding each other in the winter and forming large schools in the Gulf of Alaska, presented by retired biologist Richard Beamish, as well as an update on the North Shore Streamkeepers' conservation efforts in the Seymour watershed and other work on local waterways.

There will also be a stewardship zone, full of educators presenting opportunities to learn about stewardship initiatives on the North Shore and further abroad. There will be food trucks, and a kids zone.

Adult salmon from Capilano Hatchery will be on site in a large freshwater tank. Fisheries officers from the whale protection unit will be available all day to talk about whale protection efforts. A collection of seldom-seen ground fish gathered from offshore monitoring vessels will also be on display.

Event organizer Tim Hopkins described this year’s festival as a “rebuilding year,” which won’t include the usual live entertainment and the salmon barbecue due to pandemic-related considerations.

But he says it will be a beautiful Sunday, and encourages people to come out and embrace the long-running community event.

“If they’re out and about on the North Shore, and they want to come down to Ambleside Park and learn something about the local environment and salmon enhancement, the Coho Festival is a great place,” Hopkins said.

While the Ambleside Farmer’s Market will also be in action on Sunday, Hopkins said Coho Festival will not take over any of the parking lots, as it typically does, so there should be a good amount of spaces.

You can donate to the Coho Society online.