Planning for regular events continues at the Buck Creek Hatchery. (Photo courtesy A Rocha Houston)

A Rocha continues spring and summer event planning

But is taking COVID-19 crisis response measures

A Rocha Canada’s Houston-based conservation program is continuing plans for public events albeit with changes in recognition of the COVID-19 virus crisis.

“The April 22 river cleanup will be encouraged by family groups purchasing their own bags and gloves and going out,” says local A Rocha coordinator Cindy Verbeek.

She’s following up with the District of Houston regarding pick up of bags during Pitch-In Week.

“Events will be adjusted so that people can participate in small groups or from home. River clean up can be done easily while keeping our distance and still needs to be done especially now that the kids won’t be in school for Pitch In,” Verbeek added.

“We’re still encouraging bird watching as spring arrives and will be promoting iNaturalist as an online forum for sharing our discoveries. We journey on.”

“Since gatherings are not recommended I am shifting gears to work on interpretive signage that we can put over town that people can visit and learn something about the natural world where they are.”

“The public fry release will be in June so we’re not cancelling anything at this time,” Verbeek continued of that activity which is scheduled for June 13.

And looking into the month of July, July 18 has been tagged for the annual Bugs and Blooms Bioblitz.

At the same time A Rocha in Houston is continuing to develop its plans for expanding the Buck Creek salmon hatchery and conservation education centre.

A first concept to cost an estimated $300,000 has now been scaled back to a design now estimated in the $200,000 range by reducing the size of the planned expansion of its infrastructure.

“We will need to renovate our present bathroom to make it handicap accessible but we feel it is a good design and will serve us into the future,” said Verbeek.

“Basically we will be building a 30 foot by 30 foot indoor display/activity space and a 20 foot by 30 foot covered outdoor display/activity space.

To date A Rocha has raised approximately $97,000 with a further $45,000 from committed in-kind donations, leaving approximately $60,000 to find.

Verbeek said A Rocha has applied to a series of grant programs and is in contact with local businesses who, she added, have always been supportive of A Rocha’s activities.

One of those grant programs is called Agrispirit offered through the federal Farm Credit Corporation, an agency which lends money to the national food-producing sector.

A Rocha had asked to use the services of the District of Houston’s grant-writing program in applying for up to $25,000 to the Agrispirit fund to install solar panels on the planned new structure, a feature that fits in with the goal of self-sustainability.

A formal request to use the District’s grant-writing service to meet a March 31 application deadline was on the agenda for the March 17 District of Houston council meeting but it and other regular business was deferred until the next planned meeting of April 7.

But, in a release, the District said it was following up with programs and applicants to confirm deadlines and application submissions.

“Given the COVID-19 crisis, many grant funders are providing additional leniency for submitting required attachments such as Council resolutions to applications,” the District stated.

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