The soft opening of the nature centre at the Buck Creek CANFOR hatchery took place mid-April. (Angelique Houlihan photo/Houston Today)

The soft opening of the nature centre at the Buck Creek CANFOR hatchery took place mid-April. (Angelique Houlihan photo/Houston Today)

Houston hatchery and nature centre’s upcoming events

The conservation group to host summer students this year

The Buck Creek CANFOR Hatchery and Nature Centre will be having a host of events in the coming days and the Houston Project Coordinator for A Rocha Canada, Cindy Verbeek gave us a rundown of all things to look forward to.

“We have been able to find ways to do these events still. When we go on our birdwalks, we distance, wear masks and things like that and the schools are considered a cohort and so we are still able to have programming. It hasn’t really stopped that,” said Verbeek.

The centre has also been hosting storywalks and even had a themed story-walk, Earth’s Birthday for Earth day.

“We have been able to be creative and the storywalk is a great way to let people enjoy something and not have direct contact,” she said.

For the month of May, the centre will be hosting the Spring Migration birdblitz on May 28, a migratory bird storywalk between May 25-31, a virtual invisible migration celebration, the Salmon Enhancement Virtual Conference on May 29 and 30, a salmon storywalk from June 10 to 14 and river side tree planting sometime mid-June.

The Salmon Enhancement Virtual Conference is held every second year and is hosted by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada for people involved in fish hatcheries or for salmon enhancement, fish fences, spawning beds and habitat restoration. People get together, share ideas, have workshops to know how to care for salmons properly.

“Of course this year, because of COVID we won’t be able to do it in person but that actually opens it up to more people. So I wanted to make people aware of that and I will be here on that weekend, watching it on the big screen in our nature centre, and if people wanted to come and watch it with me, a small group of up to five people, staying distanced can watch it together on the big screen,” said Verbeek.

The conservation centre will be hosting their first summer students this year as part of a grant from Canada Summer jobs funding. The centre is hoping to hire a university student and a high school student to help out during this summer with things like helping out with the tree planting project, greeting visitors, caring for the fish to gardening, building maintenance, keeping the building clean, etc.

“So a little bit of everything to give them a taste of what is involved in conservation and environmental education,” she said. One summer student position will last for 16 weeks while the other for eight weeks.

This year’s public Coho fry release will be held on June 12. Currently the hatchery has 400 Coho Salmons that they are caring for, of which they will release all but 20 to 30 of them and people will be able to join them in small cohorts or groups for the fry release.

Last year’s fry release took place just after COVID hit however, it was successful.

“At that point, we were still allowed to have 50 people at an event and people just booked the time slots they were coming. It went really well; we ended up having 50 people over a period of three hours,” she said hoping to replicate the success of last year while adjusting with the constantly changing COVID-restrictions.

Verbeek also said that people had been really great and respectful of the restrictions.

“They are cooperative and really just thankful to have a place to still come to and bring their classes and have an outdoor space,” she said.

The centre recently held a soft opening for its newly finished nature centre.

“Now we have regular hours, so Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays we have drop-in times and outside of those hours, there are school groups that are booking to come for programming here as well,” she said.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist

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