The Kootenay-Columbia Discovery Centre Society (KCDCS) recently launched a free membership drive in an effort to garner community input and feedback for the creation of a new centre and its programming.
“We felt that it was time for us — with COVID going on — to go on this membership drive so that we can create that public interest and get people involved,” said James Posynick, the chair of the KCDCS. “We need their feedback, we need their input and support.”
For more than 40 years, environmental awareness and educational programs were offered at the Creston Valley Wildlife Area’s original Interpretive Centre, which was constructed on 7,000 hectares of Creston Valley wetland by the Canadian Wildlife Service in 1974.
“They used the wetland as an outdoor classroom. It was very successful,” said Posynick “Literally, hundreds of thousands of people would pass through it every year. A large number of students have actually gone on to have science careers.”
The building closed in 2017, and shortly before it was demolished last year due to it’s deteriorated state, centre and program management was passed on to the KCDCS from the Wildlife Management Authority, who had inherited the site from the Canadian Wildlife Service in the early 1980s.
“We went from 6,000 sq. ft. to 700 sq. ft. building, out of which we provide public education and environment programs. We’ve been successful since we took that over the past three years,” said Posynick. “We’re doing very well. We’ve maintained the connections and public interest remains extremely high.”
Although he doesn’t expect the new Discovery Centre to be ready for another three years, he added that plan is to build a location that is “something new, something better, something more accommodating and something that is culturally appropriate.”
“We’re looking to get enough members so that the profile of this organization will be raised. More participation, more input and hopefully as much collaboration from different sectors of society,” he said. “We want local and regional businesses to not just contribute financially, but be part of this wonderful environmental education project. Not for our benefit, but for the benefit of our children and future generations.”
By having more members, he continued, the society wants to exhibit the community’s support to funders and private foundations.
“If the local community doesn’t support it, you’re going nowhere. If the community supports it big time, then you have the opportunity to say — as we will — the tradition of 45 years is not only going to be maintained, but this community wants to see it grow,” he said. “They want to see this facility be the best word-class facility possible, right here on our wetland.”
The goal for the new site — which Posynick said will likely be located on or near the grounds of the old Interpretive Centre — is to provide new technological features such as virtual stations targeted to visitors with mobility issues, as well as unique learning opportunities that incorporate an Indigenous worldview.
“Environmental education that leaves out the cultural component is what’s been done in the past and it can be done in the future. But it’s incomplete,” he said. “We need that cultural, First Nations science, tradition and experience to inform the traditional science out there. Without this, it won’t be nearly as important.”
He added that the primary beneficiaries of the new Discovery Centre are the youth and future generations.
“Children are the ones who will benefit the most. This is brand new, and they will learn and grow through environmental programs and activities,” he said. “They will end up being community leaders.”
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