August opening eyed for salmon centre

by Jim Sinclair for Sooke News Mirror

Salmon Interpretive Center 

A couple of major events have punctuated a whole lot of smaller ones leading up to the current state of the Charters Creek Salmon Stewardship Centre.

An open-ended log of volunteer hours probably exists somewhere, but, true-to-form, the volunteers aren’t crowing too much about how much work they’ve been doing.

Al Jones and Ray Vowles, however, were both on the scene last Friday – just north of the creek about 100 yards east of Sooke River Road.

Both men have a friendly and relaxed manner, and do well at making a visitor feel welcome. They were happy to give updated information on the progress of the project.

The idea of a salmon-related interpretive centre has been incubating in the minds of Juan de Fuca Salmon Restoration Society (JdFSRS) members for about five years at least. Research and other various ground work has been ongoing over that time but massive infusions of inertia were noted on a couple of occasions at the 1.5 hectare site donated by Western Forest Products.

A large all-ages crowd had gathered there in April 2010 to celebrate a $228,800 donation from the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

More good news was forthcoming some months later after ground was prepared and construction had begun.

What follows is an excerpt from a related story from the Sooke News Mirror – September 22, 2010:

“...following a presentation by the JdFSRS to the Greater Victoria Water Board, the project’s funding request of just over $50,000 was granted. The society’s request for water diversion into Charters Creek was granted as well.

Support from the water board for the salmon restoration group was unanimous.

Flow in the Charters River is able to be supplemented and will be in the amount of 25 litres per second during low-flow dry months. Related infrastructure is in place nearby and, basically, all that will be needed is a valve assembly.”

The main structure on the site, boasting 2,000 square feet on the main floor, is now at the lock-up stage and dry-walling is complete as well. The heat is on and Ray Vowles indicated that interior finishing work is expected to pick up steam. He had an appointment set for picking up 100 chairs to be ready for use in the centre.

“We need to get this done and painted out and then we can start bringing them all in,” he said.

“We’re hoping to have the grand opening, probably in late August,” said Ray. “On February 20 we’re having a small get-together to show appreciation to all the people who have helped so far. It’ll be kind of a potluck.”

In terms of hands-on involvement, Vowles said there have basically been three from the JdFSRS on the scene on any given day. They like to make sure someone is there as often as possible. Other than that there’s been a bit of a revolving door with a mixture of paid and volunteer work helping to make the facility take shape.

“We’ve had all the construction people who have donated either time or materials... there’s just an endless list. It’s been good, we’ve had a lot of help so far.” Ray also took a moment to pass along some recognition to his brother Wally – site manager for the centre.

The smaller of the two buildings on site, also well on it’s way to completion, is to be a demonstration hatchery where folks of all ages can look in on the process including retrieval of fish eggs and incubation.

“...watching them go through the cycle,” said Vowles, “until we’re ready to put them back in the stream.”

Back to the idea of next month’s wingding, another imminent task – making room for a crowd – is now on the front burner as Al Jones explained.

“We’re going to put the parking lot in next week,” he stated. “Hopefully the road will dry up and we’ll probably put a few loads of gravel on it.”

The Juan de Fuca Salmon Restoration Society is managed by an 11-member elected board of directors. The organization is registered as a non-profit society under the societies act of B.C. where it is member in good standing. In 2010 the society received official designation as a registered charity through Revenue Canada. For more information contact 250-642-6351 or 250-642-5487.

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