History of Jerry Rogers Creek
Jerry Rogers Creek, as it exists today, dates back to 2006 when it was partially paved over and piped for Southridge Drive, then realigned and widened at its mouth. Prior to that, it was relatively unchanged since the mid 1900s when Marine Drive, Marine Way, and other roadways cutting across the creek had work done to them. In the late 1800s, it was turned into a ditch system to ferry logs to the Fraser River. Historically, there had been a streamkeeping group undertaking the stewardship of Jerry Rogers Creek, though it eventually dissolved. In 2021, Jerry Rogers Streamkeepers was revitalized and now strives to restore the creek to as close to its natural state as possible.
Pictured on the right: Jerry Rogers Ditch.
Unceded and Undeveloped Land
The City of Burnaby is on the ancestral and unceded homelands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ (Hunquminum) and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) speaking peoples, all members of the Central Coast Salish Nations. It's likely that the Qayqayt First Nation, the Musqueam people, and the Kwantlen First Nation all utilized the creek and surrounding watershed. Jerry Rogers Creek's indigenous name is unfortunately unknown at this time. Its original course would've been to simply empty into the cranberry marshes, or perhaps connect with one of the many trout-bearing creeks criss-crossing the marshes, in the now Riverside and Big Bend neighbourhoods. These marshes and accompanying bodies of water were extremely productive for the indigenous resource gathering cultures. Families were responsible for caring for these resource sites to ensure they continued to be productive. Controlled burning was one way they prevented forests from overtaking desired berry patches, fruit-bearing trees, and shrubs. The burns also cleared pasture lands for deer and elk.
Prior to contact there were well over 100,000 indigenous peoples throughout the region, but by 1876, First Nations in BC went from having jurisdiction over vast territories of land to being confined to very small reserves, representing a fraction of their ancestral lands. While reserves were established in several of the municipalities surrounding Burnaby, none were located in the Burnaby area when lands were being set aside for this purpose in the mid-1800s. As a result, newcomers occupied huge tracts of indigenous land in Burnaby.
Despite this, the hənq̓əmin'əm̓ ̓ and Sḵwxwú7mesh speaking peoples maintained resource sites. Settlers would see travellers passing back and forth on their way to campsites and reserves located near New Westminster. At that time, interactions with settlers were cursory—local Indigenous people sometimes arrived at their homes to barter fresh game, smoked fish, or cedar root baskets for freshly baked bread, used clothing, and cooking supplies, such as butter, flour, salt, and sugar. By this time, regretfully, the ecological impact of colonization had irreversibly altered the environment; the local herring fishery had collapsed and trout and salmon populations declined, as elk were eradicated from the region while deer populations dwindled. Industrial pollution and mass deforestation hastened this process by adding further stressors to the already weakened populations.
Pictured: Jerry Rogers
Pioneer Era History
Jerry Rogers was a pioneering logger active in the 1870s and 1880s. He appears to have been a community leader in a small society centered around Burrard Inlet. Interestingly, Jericho Beach is named after Jerry Rogers; it's likely a corruption of the original name: Jerry's Cove. He was on the first city council for the city of New Westminster in 1860, and was appointed a Justice of the Peace by the Provincial government in the 1870s. Jerry Rogers' spar camp was just above the marshland of the flats, on the slope above it. He constructed a ditch to move spars between his camp and down the hillside, through the marshland, and to the Fraser River. It is likely a series of locks were installed in the ditch to trap the waters of the Fraser River when the tides were high, and to also trap water flowing from Woolard Creek (the historic name of Byrne Creek). Peter Byrne constructed a similar ditch system at Woolard Creek in 1893. It's also possible that the City of Burnaby later hired Peter Byrne to flesh out the ditch system in the flats. While this is exciting human history, it has a devastating impact on anadromous fish, like salmon, whose natural lifecycle is dependent on moving between freshwater and marine habitats.
In 1993, the City of Burnaby began the Heritage Creek Name Project to name many of the forgotten and neglected streams throughout the city. They rediscovered the history surrounding Jerry Rogers, and thus he became the namesake. Interestingly enough, this isn't the only stream in British Columbia named after Jerry Rogers. There's also Rogers Creek in Port Alberni.
More can be read about Jerry Rogers here:
Matthews, Major James Skitt. Early Vancouver, Vol. 3. Vancouver: City of Vancouver, 2011.
Pictured: Taylor Park
The headwater of Jerry Rogers Creek had become a refuse dump for the nearby community, from at least 1910 according to locals of the era. Known as Stride Avenue Landfill, by 1964 all of Burnaby's refuse was destined to end up in the landfill. In 1969 filling of the once large gully ceased and refuse was deposited elsewhere. The landfill itself remained vacant until the 2000s. Just east of the landfill, a sand and gravel pit adopted the name of Stride Avenue Landfill which was used for excavation material and green waste. Demolition material was the exception for what was accepted, with municipal cleaning operation debris being burnt safely due to firebreaks. In the mid-late 1990s, the city began a landfill gas management program to enable them to safely decommission the landfill.
An extensive remediation program took place during the 2000s to transform the landfill into parkland; in 2005, Taylor Park Elementary was constructed as an annex to Stride Elementary. The school was designed to be as environmentally conscious as possible. Taylor Park was named after the Taylor Family, who moved to Burnaby in the late 1930's from Winnipeg. The Taylors were pivotal in the development of youth sports in the community. Mr. Taylor coached and managed soccer teams, with his sons doing the same and more. In the 1960's, the Taylors helped start one of the first young women’s soccer leagues in the Lower Mainland.
In 2006, a project was completed that the City of Burnaby approved to allow for further development of nearby property. It involved tearing down old structures along the Fraser River, then excavating the ground, and finally planting the area to create a tidal marsh just short of 3 acres in size. Nearby, 2 acres of Jerry Rogers Creek were also realigned and widened, with native plant species being added.