This website and blog is about the creation of the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre. For the current website, visit www.cowichanestuary.ca
The Cowichan Estuary is a treasure. Rich in tradition, history, and wildlife, and especially valued by the Qu’wut’sun people, it is worth protecting. To know is to love, so we hope that a Nature Centre will help adults and children, local residents and visitors learn about the Cowichan Estuary (and all estuaries) and come to love it as much as we do. We are now very near to realizing our dream of a nature centre for Cowichan Bay.
After a year of carrying our vision for an Interpretive Nature Centre on the Cowichan Estuary through the many practicalities of writing grant applications and getting our major grants approved, a successful local fundraising campaign, exploring site options, and working hard with the CVRD and community partners to find the Nature Centre a physical home, we have finally arrived!
Official Opening – April 21st
The Nature Centre’s home is in Hecate Park . Construction of the Wildlife Viewing Platform at the western end of Hecate Park and the Nature Centre classroom building on the eastern edge of the park’s grassy area, on the far west side of the parking area both were completed in March. The Wildlife Viewing platform opened on March 2nd. Indoor interpretive installations were completed just prior to opening and include a touch tank and aquarium, and interactive map with information and stories about the Cowichan watershed, and a video corner where “Estuary Voices” offer the perspectives of Cowichan elders, environmentalists and historians on the rich history of the Estuary.
Both the classroom building and the viewing platform were constructed by MacDonald Lawrence Timber Framing, who did the Kinsol Trestle restoration and built the beautiful addition to the Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre.
The Nature Centre classroom building faces west looking up the estuary toward the channels of the Koksilah and Cowichan Rivers. Interpretive trails extend along the shore to the west where the Land Trust and the CVRD have worked together to create a model green shores restoration that recovers eroded shoreline and protects it against future damage. In this process the five or so regular car parking spaces taken up in the main parking area by the new building have been replaced by 11 new parking spaces on the west side of the park.
Outdoor and indoor signage and interactive interpretive displays illustrate estuary life, including a three dimensional eelgrass meadow; explore human impacts on the ecosystem; and integrate historic cultural and culinary components, reflecting the importance of the estuary ecosystem to the aboriginal community. We have wildlife viewing telescope that has been monitoring a family of ospreys through their nest-building, egg laying and family raising, and binocculars that can be borrowed to use at the wildlife viewing platform. You can roll up your sleeves, reach in and touch some of the estuary’s living marine organisms in our touch tank, or view the smallest of estuary life at one of our a microscope stations, and our web cam can zoom in on estuary bird life.
By establishing a financially-viable, environmentally benign, specially designed Interpretive Nature Centre for the Cowichan Estuary on the waterfront we will both have a wonderful new community amenity and attract wildlife viewing tourists from across the country to visit our coastal community and spend their dollars at local retail shops and hospitality and eco-tourism related businesses.
The peak bird watching and wildlife viewing season tends to be in the spring and fall/winter, so the Centre will bring significant additional tourism and tourist dollars from this growing sector into the community during the shoulder seasons when they are most needed by local businesses.
The Nature Classroom is a beautiful structure, staffed by knowledgeable volunteers, sending a welcoming message to visitors coming into Cowichan Bay.
The Cowichan Land Trust continues to work with Cowichan Tribes, the CVRD and other partners on a long-term vision for nature interpretation and nature tourism on the estuary, including a vision for a future state-of-the-art marine science facility created in partnership with Vancouver Island’s universities. The classroom has been constructed to be easily moveable to another location on the estuary, should that be desirable, as longer term plans develop, but with over 2,000 visitors coming through in the first two months, there is every indication that we have found our permanent home.
An Interpretive Nature Centre for the Cowichan estuary, along with current developments at the Fisherman’s Wharf and the Maritime Centre, the designation of Cowichan Bay as a Cittaslow Community, and in conjunction with regional resources such as the Somenos Marsh Outdoor Classroom, the Nature Classroom at Eves Park and the BC Forest Discover Centre, will contribute to the quality of life for community residents, stimulate the local economy and help protect this valuable ecosystem.
The total project budget is $350,000, with $300,000 coming into the community from the West Coast Community Adjustment Program (WCCAP) and the Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET) as economic transition development funding. The balance has been raised locally from individual, business and organizational donations.
We want to thank everyone who has contributed to making this vision a reality. We are truly grateful for your support! We also welcome your ongoing contributions. Your donations are being invested in ensuring the Centre has high quality interpretive displays that are able to be renewed seasonally to keep them fresh and interesting, keeping visitors coming back, and towards the Centre’s initial operating budget. The project is managed by a committee of the Land Trust and charitable receipts are issued. You can visit www.cowichanlandtrust.ca/help to make an online donation or write a cheque to the Cowichan Community Land Trust. Indicate that your donation is for the “Cowichan Estuary Interpretive Nature Centre”.
We also invite you to join our team of volunteers – all are welcome. Contact us at: email@example.com.
If you are interested and able to help out in any way, large or small, please let us know. Your questions and suggestions are welcome.
Come and see the work of mixed media artist Leanne Hodges who has created a mural showing the diverse wildlife of the estuary and three-dimensional salmon to populate the hand-dyed silk eelgrass meadow created by artist Jennifer Brant.
We also have beautiful limited edition 12 X 15 giclée prints available from local artist Peter Spohn of his painting “Fir Tree on Mt. Tzouhalem #3”. $100 from each $140 purchase goes to the Nature Centre project. For details click here.
Thanks again to all the individuals, organizations, businesses who have already stepped up to offer their support for the Nature Centre!
Who are we?
We are a group of local citizens committed to realizing the dream of an Interpretive Nature Centre for the Cowichan Estuary. At the present time we are a committee of the Cowichan Community Land Trust. Once it is well established the centre will likely transition to operate under the stewardship of a community board with a partnership agreement with CVRD. If you are interested in getting involved, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Estuary Nature Centre Management Committee
Jane Kilthei, Committee Chair, CLT
Kai Rietzel, CLT
Rod Carswell, CLT Board
Tracy Fleming, Cowichan Tribes
Kerrie Talbot, Chair, Area D Parks Commission
Graham Gidden, CVRD Parks
Norm Olive, CVRD Project Manager
Previous committee members and ongoing supporters who we would like to thank include:
John Scull (CLT Board) , Cheri Ayers (Cowichan Tribes), Guy Johnston (Fishermen’s Wharf Assoc), Nan Goodship, Carol Hartwig (CV Naturalists), Erin Ward, Shari Willmott, Vanessa Elton, Madeline Southern, and Dwight Milford.
To stimulate your imagination on what an interactive, interpretive nature centre on the Cowichan Estuary might look like, consider what other communities on the Pacific Coast and throughout BC have created and enjoy some pictures taken by John Scull on his March 2011 trip to visit nature centres from California to BC.
jkilthei on Grand Opening a Great Suc… Kim Goldberg on Grand Opening a Great Suc… Herb Rice on Our Supporters Jackie on Another Local Case Study…