The temporary 600 sq.ft. Discovery Centre is working admirably to provide programs to the thousands who arrive to experience the wetland habitat in West Creston. The Kootenay-Columbia Discovery Centre Society is hard at work to create a new permanent structure, to replace the condemned original building. (Photo credit Lorne Eckersley)

Plans proceed for new Discovery Centre

The demise of Creston Valley's much-loved Wildlife Centre appears to be leading to the construction of a new Discovery Centre in the immediate vicinity.

The demise of Creston Valley’s much-loved Wildlife Centre appears to be leading to the construction of a new Discovery Centre in the immediate vicinity.

Jim Posynick, chair of the Kootenay-Columbia Discovery Centre Society, said on Monday that the society’s board has made considerable headway toward the construction of a new building to educate people on the importance of the area’s celebrated wetlands.

While other locations—including one on Highway 3 north of the Kootenay River—have been considered, most have been abandoned as directors follow the advice of Ramsar, which encourages interpretation centres close to the wetlands they are intended to celebrate, Posynick said on Monday.

“Six potential sites have been eliminated after we worked with a consultant in our pre-design phase,” he said.

Formed after it was determined that the 50-year-old Wildlife Centre was hazardous, KCDCS has been working toward a modern replacement since it was incorporated in 2015. The society has charitable status and can issue tax receipts for donations.

Designation of the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area as a Ramsar site decades ago put the ecologically vital area onto the world map. The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is the intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

The Convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975. Since then, almost 90 per cent of UN member states, from all the world’s geographic regions, have acceded to become “Contracting Parties”, according to the Ramsar web site.

Although KCDCS was formed with a desire by members to build a new facility, it also became involved with the construction and operation of a temporary structure last year. “That 600 square-foot building (the Wildlife Centre, which will be demolished this year or next, is 5,700 square feet) has been remarkably successful,” Posynick said. “The number of visitors in 2018 was close to normal, and school tours have remained strong. We exist to provide environmental awareness and educational programs.”

With climate change becoming a greater concern globally, Posynic said that the wetlands offer a perfect opportunity to educate.

“Our wetlands came out of the diking projects nearly a century ago,” he said. “Raising kids who are aware of their importance helps them make good environmental decisions, and they influence their parents, too.”

This summer the KCDCS volunteer board members are focusing on public outreach in an effort to engage the local population’s support.

“We are continually working to make partnerships within the community,” he said. “And did you know that our memberships are free?”

Memberships are important, he said, in order to demonstrate broad community support for the future construction.

“We have no intention of building a luxurious facility,” he said. “What we need is something that will complement the world-class Ramsar site and our world-class valley. Ecotourism is a big opportunity to create jobs and contribute to the economy.

“We can’t survive only on a donations and grants—eventually we will need an endowment fund to sustain operations.

“We do not have a design for the Discovery Centre just yet, but it needs to be energy efficient, with green construction practices. It also needs to meet current and future needs, using the newest technology to enhance its value to visitors.”

With funding commitments to operate the temporary facility for the next four years, the KCDCS board is moving ahead with optimism and determination, he said.

“It’s going to happen,” Posynick said. “It’s too valuable not to.”

More information can be found at www.discovery-centre.ca, which also includes a form for a free membership.

“We need your support,” he added.


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