Stream of dreams Murals Society

The Spawning of the Stream of Dreams Program - 2000

In Burnaby, in 1998, someone dumped toxic material into a storm drain. It killed everything in Byrne Creek,including 5,000 fish. Within a year, buildings at Edmonds and Kingsway, in the headwaters of Byrne Creek watershed,were demolished. A chain link fence was installed around the rubble. It looked like a war zone. Long-time area resident Louise Towell and her daughter Chanel were horrified. Then inspiration by way of a wooden fence mural near the Broadway Skytrain station struck. A similar project could help improve the appearance of the Edmonds corner. Louise felt she needed to bring the most beautiful part of the neighbourhood to the attention of the community, and decided that Byrne Creek fit the bill. She would bring Byrne Creek to the fence. The Stream of Dreams was born.

Louise called Joan Carne, chair of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers, to see if the group could offer technical support, maps, or information. As they talked, Louise remembered the 1998 fish kill and knew what she wanted to see on the fence. Bring those fish back to life, symbolically, by making 5,000 wooden fish,have them painted by local children, and put them on the fence to tell all who pass by that there is a creek in the neighbourhood. Because the creek is right under the street in pipes leading from each storm drain, she coined the phrase, "The Creek Under the Street."

Joan jumped on the idea as a perfect opportunity for Byrne Creek watershed education and as a possible Rivers Day 2000 project for the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers. The Streamkeepers borrowed three scroll saws from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), and, with financial support from DFO, Fisheries Renewal BC, the property owner (Western Eagle Realty), BC Hydro, a number of smaller donors, and a small army of volunteers, they proceeded to produce wooden fish. The City of Burnaby bought the property early in the project and gave full support to the mural.

By Rivers Day, September 2000, the first 1,300 painted fish, painted by students at Clinton, Stride and Edmonds Elementary Schools, were attached to the fence along a painted blue wavy streak, and by June 2001, nearly 3,000 painted fish 'swam' along the fence, with the additional fish painted by students from Nelson, Glenwood, Kenneth Gordon and St Francis De Sales schools. Signs on the fence explained the project:

"Thanks to `Beautiful Dreamers' and artful planners, our community has discovered its living stream. Each fish is a testimony of hope. From cutting and sanding, to priming and creative painting, all steps of the fish creation process are our community's commitment to its local creek. We invite you to walk along the fence, find your favorite fish and share the dream of a living stream."

It was hoped that the mural would stay up for three to five years until the site was redeveloped. It was a one off project!

But the Story Continued

Before long the Stream of Dreams program was invited into other watersheds to help educate other communities about their local streams and to share the dream of healthy creeks along with the beauty of community art. In 2003 the Stream of Dreams Murals Society was formed to facilitate providing the program. Since that local beginning in the year 2000, Stream of Dreams Murals Society founders Louise and Joan have successfully educated and delighted thousands of people in communities throughout the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and have trained and licensed teams in Victoria, Horsefly, Lumby, Nelson and Kamloops, BC; at Conservation Halton, Quinte Conservation, Credit Valley Conservation and the Bay Area Restoration Council in Ontario; and in Calgary, AB to present the program. Children, adults, politicians and media have been introduced to their watersheds, creeks, rivers, storm drains, have experienced the magic of painting a dreamfish, and have seen their artwork displayed in one of the many public Stream of Dreams "galleries" along a chain-link fence in their neighbourhood.

In June of 2006, the original Stream of Dreams in Burnaby was taken down to allow for the redevelopment at the corner. A portion of the fish have been refurbished and repainted and now "swim" on fences along the South Burnaby Urban Trail on a bridge above the Skytrain rapid transit line.

By the end of 2010, over 122,000 people, in three provinces and one US state have participated in the project

The Stream of Dreams education model inspires protection and enhancement of fish habitat and fresh water resources:

  • A highly interactive and imaginative project.
  • An effective method of engaging whole communities to think about the water that moves through their lives.
  • Helps to conserve freshwater resources, protect and restore fish habitat.
  • Unites communities and beautifies neighbourhoods.
  • Gives children hope and shows them the power of a dream.