Chum salmon have returned to spawn in an urban creek in East Vancouver for the fourth year in a row, leaving biologists feeling "pretty excited" about the potential to return city landscapes to their natural states. 

"It really indicates that if we can improve these systems more, if we can work on the watershed, if we can open up stream channels that are buried now, we can get these kinds of fish back into our city," said Vancouver Park Board biologist Nick Page.

The city has been working since 2002 to restore the Still Creek corridor to its natural habitat, a process sometimes referred to as "rewilding."

Still Creek runs through some of Vancouver and Burnaby's most industrialized areas. Chum salmon hadn't swam their way through there for 80 years until they returned in 2012. 

Despite the office buildings, recycling depot, and strip malls that flank its side, the corridor is one of several areas the City of Vancouver has identified as a "hot spot for biodiversity." 

As part of its Still Creek Enhancement project, Vancouver has taken steps that include removing concrete, adding native plants, and in some places narrowing streets to widen the stream. 

"All that incremental work, plus [the work done on] the fish passages downstream, have allowed the fish to come back," said Page. 

He estimates there are currently about 12 to 15 chum salmon in the creek so far this year.

With files from Kiran Dhillon