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Celebrating Little Campbell hatchery stalwart

Longtime fish-and-game club volunteer, Bob Oswald, ‘retires’
After more than 50 years watching over the Little Campbell River and its watershed

Little Campbell hatchery manager Bob Oswald can’t remember a time when he didn’t love fish, wildlife and everything else the outdoors has to offer.

The self-described outdoorsman and conservationist has been keen on it “ever since I could walk… all my life,” Oswald – a founding member of the Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club – said Tuesday, as he strolled a trail that winds alongside the river.

But while the senior’s love for the environment hasn’t faded, Oswald says after more than 50 years of devoting himself to protecting, restoring and enhancing the Little Campbell watershed, it’s time to move on.

“I’m really looking forward to spending the rest of my time with my kids, my grandkids, my great-grandkids,” he said, referring to an upcoming move to the Interior. “They mean a lot to me.”

Oswald, born and raised in a home on White Rock’s Vidal Street, has lived on the Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club’s South Surrey property since 1983, tending – alongside other devoted volunteers – to whatever needed doing on the 30 acres.

“I retired at 55 ’cause this was more important than working for a living, to me,” Oswald said.

“I’ve never regretted it, not for one moment.”

Oswald was instrumental in the fish-and-game club’s formation back in the 1950s, and over the years has been a driving force in many initiatives, including projects and programs aimed at bettering the river for spawning salmon, and educating young students on why it matters.

“It’s important to explain things to kids,” he said. “Hopefully, lots of them will become involved in the future.”

Club president Bob Donnelly named Oswald’s role in a multi-year program to restore the watershed’s threatened wood duck population as among highlights of the senior’s time there; his dedication was further demonstrated when he and three other club members mortgaged their own homes to help the club buy the land. The hatchery – designed and constructed in 1983 – was the province’s first all-volunteer facility of its kind.

“Bob’s devotion to and vision for the hatchery made him a natural choice to direct the project forward,” a tribute compiled by his family states.

“This was the start of 30 years of dedicated work for Bob, giving him the opportunity to contribute his efforts to a cause that has driven him most of his life.”

Over the years, Oswald – now 83 – has helped educate more than 100,000 elementary students in Richmond, Delta, White Rock and Surrey on the life of the salmon/trout, wildlife and indigenous trees and plants found in the Little Campbell and its watershed. He’s also been responsible for hatching, raising and releasing more than 4,000,000 salmon and trout into the river and its tributaries.

In 2008, in recognition of his passion for the resource and educating others about it, the Freshwater Fisheries Society declared Oswald a “fisheries treasure.”

While a health issue sidelined Oswald’s efforts for a time in 2007, and injuries suffered in a crash three years later did the same, nothing has succeeded in extinguishing his passion for the cause.

“This little pocket – we want to hang onto it as long as possible,” he said. “Hopefully, we can keep fish in the water.”

Oswald said he’ll miss his hatchery home, but he’s leaving with “lots of memories – good memories,” and optimism for its future.

“We’re quite proud of our place. Done a lot of work over the years, taken good care of the river,” he said. “Hopefully, it’ll go on like that for a long time to come.”

An event to celebrate and thank Oswald takes place Saturday (May 4) at the Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club, and everyone is welcome. It’s set for 3:30-5:30 p.m. at the club, 1284 184 St.


Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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