Helping out with the Toboggan Creek hatchery release of chinook fry into Buck Creek right beside the Houston hatchery are Cindy Verbeek and Jane Forster. (Mark West photo)

Helping out with the Toboggan Creek hatchery release of chinook fry into Buck Creek right beside the Houston hatchery are Cindy Verbeek and Jane Forster. (Mark West photo)

Conservation group embarks upon ambitious project

Wants to build a nature centre

A local conservation group has its eye on its most ambitious project to date — the construction of a nature centre to complement its existing fish hatchery at Buck Creek.

Calling the project Phase II of its conservation and enhancement efforts at Buck Creek, A Rocha needs to raise $300,000 in cash or in kind for the centre which would be a 50 foot by 30 foot structure connected to the hatchery building.

“We’re hoping that by June next year we’ll have most of what we need,” says Cindy Verbeek, the Houston Project Coordinator for A Rocha Canada.

In the coming weeks and months she’ll be contacting local businesses and organizations for support.

“This is an amazing community,” said Verbeek of A

Rocha’s Phase I project, the construction of the hatchery which opened in 2017.

“Businesses may not donate money, but they can donate machine time, for instance. Canfor donated stick lumber for the fish hatchery and someone who was replacing the siding on their house, donated their old siding,” she said.

The District of Houston is also making its grant writer available, a process that first involves identifying organizations and businesses who have donation programs followed up by writing grant applications.

“I’ve written applications before but this time, this is a bit beyond me,” Verbeek said of the assistance being provided by the District’s grant writer.

A Rocha envisions a nature centre that will provide display space to highlight the Upper Bulkley River watershed and a place for year-round environmental education programs.

It would also make the building available to rent for community cultural and educational events.

A Rocha has raised $10,300 in cash so far and has already applied for grants from groups and businesses such as the Pacific Salmon Foundation and the Prince Rupert Port Authority.

“People who you don’t expect will step forward,” Verbeek noted of A Rocha’s experience with the hatchery, a project that cost approximately $150,000 in cash and in kind donations.

A Rocha as an international organization which first took root in Portugal — the name means “the rock” in Portuguese and has been working in Houston since 2003.

It’s based on Christian values relating to the environment and conservation and in Houston, projects have included recycling, a community market and a food garden as well as making presentations and undertaking initiatives with schools and churches in the area.

A specific project is Bioblitz, a 24-hour period each spring in which volunteers, aided by experts, take to the field to record the biodiversity of the Upper Bulkley Watershed by counting as many species as possible.

The organization has a very small budget for paid work, meaning it relies on a large number of volunteers, Verbeek added.

Its coho hatchery, on land provided by Canfor, is meant to replenish the species in the watershed a pilot project housed in a tent and shed, grew to a building which opened in Sept. 2017.

A Rocha conducts tours of its operations and anticipates expanding that public education effort through its planned nature centre, Verbeek said.

 

Lily and Bryce Groot hanging out with a long-toed salamander during Bioblitz 2018 at the Buck Creek hatchery. Over a 24-hour period, 266 plant and animal species were counted. (Mark West photo)

Lily and Bryce Groot hanging out with a long-toed salamander during Bioblitz 2018 at the Buck Creek hatchery. Over a 24-hour period, 266 plant and animal species were counted. (Mark West photo)

Natalie Newman (Community Advisor for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans), Cindy Verbeek and Regina Meints checking a coho salmon to see if its ready to spawn so eggs can be retrieved for the Houston hatchery. (Jane Forster photo)

Natalie Newman (Community Advisor for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans), Cindy Verbeek and Regina Meints checking a coho salmon to see if its ready to spawn so eggs can be retrieved for the Houston hatchery. (Jane Forster photo)