When Pemberton flooded in 2003, the ensuing damage closed the Birkenhead Hatchery and with it the village's only nature facility used to educate students about salmon lifecycles.
Since then, Stewardship Pemberton has been working to establish a new nature centre, one that provides a look at the rich ecosystems of the coastal and inland region.
"We worked really hard to get our name out there and then we were lucky enough to get the Western Economic Diversification funding through the Pacific Salmon Foundation," said Veronica Woodruff of Stewardship Pemberton. "We received $250,000 from them, which we used to access funds from smaller groups like the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation ($15,000), the SLRD ($30,000) and charity golf tournaments organized by Pemberton and Whistler grocery stores and the Pemberton Wildlife Association. We just received another $17,000 from the Pacific Salmon Foundation to complete our programming."
The Village of Pemberton provided the location for the centre at One Mile Lake Park. Though the doors haven't opened yet over 400 students from School District 48, have already signed up for its educational curriculum.
To round out the material relayed through the centre, a sea tank will arrive in late July.
"We're going to have a salt water tank with all sorts of local sea critters from our coastline, which is important to us because we are a salmon-based centre and obviously it's all linked that way even though we're inland," said Woodruff of the 600 square foot facility, which also extends into a large covered area outside and surrounding trails. "There are also lots of opportunities for passive learning with interpretive displays and some of the things we're focusing on are birds and also cultural learning opportunities with the Lil'wat First Nations."
In the winter, the centre will maintain a small educational hatchery for classroom programs. One pair of Coho salmon will be bred to raise some 2,000 eggs per year. Funding from BC Hydro originally earmarked for electricity to the centre has been rerouted to a more economical solar power system and will go towards ground restoration for salmon habitat and new interpretive trails on the north side of the park.
"We're completely off the grid, our solar power has been installed thanks to BC Hydro and as well we're doing rainwater collection for drinking water and a self composting toilet," said Woodruff. "Those are some of the other learning opportunities in the centre, on how to live off the grid."
The centre will be open to the public every day of the week in the summer and related summer camps are being offered through the Squamish Lil'wat Regional District through July and August for ages six to 12. Private tours are also available.
The grand opening and ribbon cutting (complete with barbeque, displays, kids games and a salmon shaped cake) will be held on Wednesday, June 29 at 11 a.m. at One Mile Lake Nature Centre.