River stewards celebrate 60 years of tending to Little Campbell

South Surrey game club hall to be renamed after longtime member Archie McNair

Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club is marking a milestone this year, and officials want the community – particularly past and present members – to come help celebrate.

“Most of our founding members are gone now,” club president Bob Donnelly said, during a chat about the club’s 60-year history at the 1284 184 St. property.

“It’s a labour of love. I think it’s important we continue to maintain it.”

The club was started in 1956 by local fishermen who were concerned about the Little Campbell River and fish stocks. It was incorporated a year later – hence the anniversary this year instead of last – and in 1978, four members took out mortgages on their homes in order to purchase the 29-acre site.

From the beginning, the “soul of the club” has been the river, Donnelly said, and much work has been done over the decades to restore, improve and protect it – with notable success.

In recent years, counts reminiscent of those seen in 1981 have been logged for the returns of chinook, coho, chum and trout.

“We’d never seen them in that number,” Donnelly said of last fall’s chum return, which was quadruple that normally seen.

“We are being successful.”

Donnelly described the recent discovery of Salish suckers – not seen in the Little Campbell since the 1930s, but found in the past four years in the waters that flow through the nearby A Rocha lands – as “really big news.”

He said club members’ attention to development in the area is also important. With notices advising of applications for projects within the watershed arriving “every week,” much time is spent ensuring risks to the river are mitigated.

For the most part, developers are amenable to the club’s requests, Donnelly said.

He believes those efforts – and particularly those around a truck park that was proposed for the 19200-block of 16 Avenue – and the public awareness generated by them, are a big part of why club membership has hit a record-high of 730. Until about four years ago, it hovered around 350.

A significant jump, to about 500, was seen four years ago, and for the past two years, the interest has continued to climb.

“More and more people are aware of who we are, where we are and what we do,” Donnelly said.

Popularity of the club’s archery program is another contributor, he said.

Those interested in seeing what all the fuss is about can visit the property any day.

This coming Sunday (June 18) is expected to be a busy one for the club, as it hosts its annual Father’s Day salmon barbecue.

The popular tradition typically gets underway around noon, and draws hundreds of people to the property – last year’s crowd numbered around 650.

In addition to a meal of barbecued salmon, highlights of the day are to include the release of about 30,000 coho into the river.

At the June 24 anniversary event – set for 1-5 p.m. – the efforts of a longtime club member who recently passed away will be commemorated, with the renaming of the club’s hall.

Going forward, it will be known as the Archie McNair Education Centre.

“He’s really the man that made (the hall) possible… the driving force,” Donnelly said. “It took four years to build that building. We thought it’d be good to honour him for that.”

McNair died on March 1 at the age of 83. He was an SFGC member for 35 years.

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