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Cowichan Bay Estuary Centre opening just a few months away

The grand opening of the expanded Maritime Centre in September was the last big addition to Cowichan Bay. The next is the new estuary centre planned for opening this spring. - Andrew Leong/file
The grand opening of the expanded Maritime Centre in September was the last big addition to Cowichan Bay. The next is the new estuary centre planned for opening this spring.
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

The community’s done its part to help build Cowichan Bay’s Estuary Nature Centre.

Now it’s provincial and federal taxpayers’ turn to fund Hecate Park’s eco-observation and education centre expected to open by March 31, explained Kai Reitzel of the Cowichan Land Trust.

The land trust recently signed funding agreements with Ottawa’s West Coast Community Adjustment Program, and provincially-supported Island Coastal Economic Trust.

“In September, we had the 10 per cent to qualify for the grant funding from West Coast and ICE-T,” said Reitzel, proud of the $350,000 project donated $35,000 by Cowichanians.

“We exceeded our goal and have actually raised roughly $40,000 through local donations from businesses, groups and individuals.”

The project’s now under design and off-site construction by famed wood-frame masters Macdonald & Lawrence — revampers of Cowichan’s Kinsol Trestle.

Reitzel was also amped about the centre’s lease deal signed by the Cowichan Valley Regional District, through bay Director Lori Iannidinardo.

Duncan Rotary Club is adding major funds and labour toward building the centre’s wildlife-viewing platform.

The land trust plans a Feb. 12 Valentine’s Beer-and-Burger fundraiser and silent auction at the Bay Pub to stoke the centre’s operating fund.

The 1,000-square-foot centre’s large windows will face the sensitive estuary for views of wildlife spanning eagles, herons and seals to orca whales and more.

Land trust nature-centre chairwoman Jane Kilthei said the centre will boast a two- level viewing platform, with a telescope to watch birds and other estuary wildlife.

Inside offers aquaria, touch tables, microscope stations and interactive displays, maps and interpretive signage leading visitors through the park along the waterfront, showing the bay ecosystem’s diversity.

Some of those interactive elements were offered at the bay’s former Marine Ecology Station that moved to Sidney a decade ago due to empty pockets.

“The Centre will provide opportunities for visitors to learn about the

estuary, its watershed, marine life, and natural and cultural history,” said Kilthei.

Meanwhile, Reitzel hoped to add more green features to the centre.

“Unfortunately, we can't do things like solar panels in this budget, but we’re planning that in future.”

For more, visit www.cowichanestuary.wordpress.com, or call the Land Trust at 250-746-0227.

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