Greater Victoria construction leaders take on nature house legacy project

Refurbishment part of community education about Gorge waterway

Built to be a concession stand, the small building in Esquimalt Gorge Park is doing an adequate job serving as the Gorge Waterway Nature Centre. But it could be so much more.

The goal is to make it into the kind of facility where people will want to come and learn, said Todd Carnahan of the Habitat Acquisition Trust.

The Vancouver Island Construction Association is stepping up to do just that, to mark not only its own centennial year, but that of the Township of Esquimalt. The association’s Young Construction Leaders group takes on a legacy project every year – this year they’re tackling a major renovation to the nature centre.

The group chose this project from many proposals because the centre’s education programs reach so many people, said Chris Lyons, project manager with Farmer’s Construction. The renovation will also call for a range of skills.

“The scope of this project involves a large number of the trades, so if we’re going to do things through donations and time, you can involve the majority of your association,” Lyons said.

Several members of the Young Construction Leaders got a tour of their future project – and an education about the Gorge – on Thursday. As they gathered around a 3-D interactive watershed model of the Gorge, Joachim Carolsfeld pointed out eelgrass beds that serve as the nursery for fish, and the various freshwater creeks that feed the ocean inlet.

Carolsfeld is executive director of the World Fisheries Trust, which opened the centre in 2008 with the help of the Township. The model, mounted on a table, takes up a big chunk of the available room in the facility.

“Our main challenge is a lack of space,” Carolsfeld said.

“(The goal is to make this building) a more attractive place for our community, so that they can come and learn about … the eel grass and the coho salmon and the ability to swim here,” Carnahan said. “I was thinking a gingerbread house, but you might have other ideas,” he joked to the industry leaders.

People must learn about the Gorge to value it, he said. “If they don’t value it, we’ll never protect this place. It will become a cesspool again.”

Did you know?

• The Gorge Waterway Nature House was first built as a concession stand and washroom for beachgoers in the 1950s. At that time, the mouth of the creek winding through the Esquimalt Gorge Park was transformed into a pool for swimming, by dredging the sediment and chlorinating the water.

Focus on the Gorge

• The new nature house is just one of many restoration and education projects focused on the Gorge. The Habitat Acquisition Trust is working with landowners upstream from Craigflower Creek to ensure nutrients and other pollutants don’t enter the watershed.

Another project, led by the World Fisheries Trust, is called Voices of the Gorge. It’s about collecting stories from old folks, said executive director Joachim Carolsfeld. “We’re not sure what kind of presentation it will be, whether video, print, posters, a book.”


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