Longtime Burnaby activist Mark Angelo goes back to basics with The Little Creek That Could

Children's book is based on the true story of Guichon Creek

Children’s book is based on the true story of Guichon Creek

Mark Angelo remembers starting work at BCIT several decades ago, in the institution’s early days, and being excited to check out Guichon Creek. 

The renowned rivers activist eventually chaired the school’s Rivers Institute and founded World Rivers Day—celebrated on the fourth Sunday of every September.  

But on that day long ago, Angelo couldn’t believe the state of the creek at his new workplace. “I was quite excited, being an avid paddler and river enthusiast, when I heard there was this stream in the back corner of campus,” he recalls. “So I went to see it right away and was quite disappointed by what I saw. The creek was very degraded—it had been extensively polluted, stripped of stream-side vegetation, dredged and channelized.”  

The next day, Angelo went back to the creek, where he met an elderly gentleman who had lived in Burnaby for 80 years. “He told me that when he was a boy he would go there, catch fish, see lots of wildlife,” says 70-year-old Angelo. “After talking to him, I thought, Wow, wouldn’t it be neat if we could try and clean it up and return it to what it once was?” 

That ended up spurring a 50-year effort that resulted in a fully rejuvenated Guichon Creek. Now Angelo is telling the story for the next generations to hear with a children’s book entitled The Little Creek That Could. 

The author, who published his book in partnership with Friesen Press, says spending time with his grandchildren inspired him to tell the tale. “There was a lot of reading to our grandkids, who are 10 and seven years old; we spend a lot of time with them,” says Angelo, who came up with the idea during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. “After seeing, over the years, so many illustrated children’s books, I thought, You know, the events that unfolded on Guichon Creek would make a really interesting book.”  

Angelo saw Irish illustrator Ros Webb‘s work online and asked her to collaborate with him. “This book is for kids from kindergarten to the second grade, and I thought her artwork, with its beautiful, bright watercolours, would fit really well with the story I wanted to tell,” he says.  

Asked about the book’s main message, Angelo hopes it drives home the simple point that “healthy rivers and streams make communities better and safer places to live. That’s good for all of us—those who live here, those who do business here. We need to do everything we can to protect streams that remain in good shape while trying to restore those that have been damaged in the past.” 

The Little Creek That Could is available on Amazon and Chapters Indigo, in both hardcover and paperback.