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Cowichan Bay welcoming new $350,000 estuary nature centre

Eco-wonders of Cowichan Bay will be displayed and studied by spring at a new nature centre approved and funded last week, Cowichan Land Trust’s Roger Hart says.

The $350,000 Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre could be under construction this month toward use by Cowichanians and valley visitors, he said.

The marine-education facility, with indoor and outdoor classrooms, will offer information about the bay’s denizens from its eelgrass colonies and heron rookeries to its orcas and bottom critters.

“Our community needs a nature centre where children and families can learn about the local environment and how to care for it,” said John Scull, Cowichan Valley Young Naturalists Club leader and nature-centre committee member.

“The estuary, at the lower end of the Cowichan watershed, is a critical environment for fish, birds, and water quality — and a resource for recreation and tourism”

The eco-centre is taxpayer funded with $315,000 from the Island Coastal Economic Trust, and the West Coast Community Adjustment Program.

That dough was delivered Wednesday after locals donated a required 10 per cent, totalling $35,000.

The seaside site, near Hecate Park, is being provided by the Cowichan Valley Regional District, Hart explained.

“Designs are in the works,” he said. “Options include a donated portable classroom from School District 79.

“The other option is to build,” he said of the building possibly on stilts so it doesn’t spoil any habitat.

“I see us finalizing negotiations with West Coast this month or early October,” Hart said, “then starting construction in late fall for spring of 2012 — the intention is to have it finished by March 31.”

The project now helmed by the CLT will eventually be a self-contained, self-financing entity, he noted.

“I think of it as a two-part facility — a classroom so teachers and students can spend meaningful time there; and also a tourist attraction to describe the unique features of the estuary.”

The centre will sport a Founding Donor Wall for the first 40 donations of $1,000 or more.

Founding donors include the Cowichan Valley Naturalists, Kaatza

Foundation, Island Savings GIFT Program, Rotary Club of Duncan, and the Cowichan Valley Bottle Depot.

Patrons can buy Peter Spohn’s limited-edition giclée print Fir Tree on Mt. Tzouhalem #3, or donate cash.

Contact the Cowichan Land Trust at 250-746-0227 or visit info@cowichanlandtrust.ca.

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