Ray Vowles

Valuable new resource gets set for grand opening

Charters River site of new education centre

  • Aug. 24, 2011 7:00 p.m.

The Charters River Salmon Interpretive Centre that is set to open in a month nearly didn’t get built.

Project manager Wally Vowles called the project a “leap of faith.”

The brainchild of the Juan de Fuca Salmon Restoration Society, Vowles said there had been talk of opening up a centre one day but it was thought to be a long-term vision.

Costing “well over a million dollars,” everything was suddenly kick started by a $318,000 government grant from the Western Economic Diversified Fund, whose mandate is to promote the development and diversification of Western Canada.

“I believe several hundred proposals were put in to the federal government, and ours was one of the few that floated to the top,” said Vowles.

Still not nearly enough money to take on the ambitious task of constructing a multi-building facility, the opportunity was just too good to pass up.

“It was one time funding, and all the agencies said you’re not going to see funding like again for many, many years with the economy.”

The rest of the money, astonishingly, was provided by various organizations and individuals, said administrator Elida Peers.

“The donations — people have been so good. We are doing our recognition board, we’re working on it right now (and it) has just about 100 substantial donors,” she said.

Consisting of both a completely volunteer-run demonstration hatchery and an education centre, Peers said their goal is, “to bring young people and the world into focus and understanding the system of salmon, and how they come back and reproduce and go back and keep the cycle going in a sustainable fashion.

“The purpose of all this is to have the coming generations aware (of declining fish stocks),” she said, and added the centre is in no way designed to compete with existing hatcheries.

Almost the entire structure, that began construction a year ago and is now about 95 per cent complete, is built from locally milled recycled lumber to give it a “rustic effect.”  But don’t let the surroundings fool you — the equipment inside is state of the art.

The classroom area features a SMART Board, which takes the idea of the traditional blackboard and fuses it with technology. Fluid images show up on the board that people can interact with and manipulate with either their fingers or a set of colored “pens.”

There will also be microscopes for the classroom, as well as a couple of aquariums, one saltwater, hosting a variety of fish species. A terrarium complete with lizards and treefrogs is also on its way.

“There is a young fellow in Port Renfrew who’s getting all the wildlife for us so there’s all those things for bringing kids abreast of the process,” said Peers.

Next door, the demonstration hatchery building has two big green tanks that will soon have salmon fry swimming in them. Behind, there are trays for holding eggs.

The grand opening is on Sept. 25, and a dedication ceremony is planned for 1:30 p.m. Call 250-642-4200 or email admin@jdfcharterssalmon.com to register by Sept. 18. There is no parking at the centre, but shuttles will be running from 12 p.m. at Milne’s Landing (Edward Milne Road at the BC Transit Park & Ride).

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