We’re a nature interpretive centre overlooking the Cowichan Estuary, a 400 hectare estuarine ecosystem and internationally designated Important Bird Area (IBA) in the unceded and traditional territory of the Quw’utsun People. In spite of more than a century of industrial activity, the estuary provides vital habitat for resident and migratory birds, Pacific salmon, shellfish and a diversity of inter-tidal life.
The Nature Centre offers interactive opportunities for all ages to learn about the estuary, its watershed, marine life, and natural and cultural history. The Centre’s marine aquarium and observation tank is popular with children and families who can meet up-close with colorful, quirky intertidal creatures. Volunteers are there to tell the creatures’ stories and help find those good at camouflage. Visitors can explore our interactive “Connecting the Drops” watershed exhibit and learn about the water cycle and the salmon cycle in the Cowichan and Koksilah rivers. Behind the eelgrass curtain there’s a story map where you take an animated and narrated journey from the last ice age to the present in the Cowichan Valley. And you can use our microscopes, telescopes and explore other interactive displays, and enjoy wildlife and bird watching along our ocean front interpretive trail and from our viewing tower. Our team of part-time staff, nature educators and volunteers deliver school programs, summer camps, youth leadership training, citizen science projects and offer people of all ages opportunities to engage in hands-on riparian restoration projects in the estuary and watershed. Scroll down to see our Annual Reports below.
Our Theory of Change: If we engage people of all ages, especially children and youth, offering them opportunities to be curious, connect with, learn about, and care for the Cowichan Estuary and its adjacent watersheds, then they will fall in love with this special ecosystem, share their love and knowledge, and act to care for and protect this place, as well as other natural places, because love and connection, together with knowledge gained through hands-on experience, inspire effective action here in our community and in the wider world.
The Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre is a charitable, not-for-profit educational and interpretive Centre managed by a volunteer board of directors and a part-time staff team. The Centre was developed in 2011 and opened in 2012 under the wings of the Cowichan Land Trust on Cowichan Valley Regional District parkland. We fledged as our own charitable society in 2019. The Centre collaborates with the Land Trust, the CVRD’s Area D Parks Commission and the Cowichan Valley Naturalists,and is supported by a wide range of Nature Centre volunteers, including educators and interpreters who engage with visitors of all ages and keep the Centre’s doors open to the public. Educational programs for school classes, children, youth and adults are led by professional nature educators assisted by volunteers. The Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre is a member of the Nature Cowichan network.
The Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre was conceived in 2011 by a small group of local residents, including parents, educators, naturalists, fishermen and business people, who saw the Estuary as both a natural treasure and also an ecosystem at risk. It was created as a project of the Cowichan Land Trust in cooperation with the Cowichan Valley Regional District, the Cowichan Valley Naturalists, Cowichan Tribes, and many energetic local volunteers, especially the Rotary Club of Duncan who contributed both money and more than 300 hours of volunteer labour to building the Nature Centre and our wildlife viewing tower. The Centre is now its own not-for-profit charity. The growth and realization of the vision of the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre is documented on our former website at cowichanestuary.wordpress.com. The Nature Centre’s official opening was held on Saturday, April 21, 2012, and we celebrate our B’Earth Day on the Earth Day weekend every year. We offered our first series of marine biology summer camps throughout July and August in 2012.
In April 2019 we fledged from the Cowichan Land Trust and became our own charitable non-profit society. Our purposes as a Society are:
1) To advance education by providing classes to the public on the subjects of the Cowichan estuary, its marine and bird life, its natural and cultural history, the Cowichan and Koksilah watersheds, and other natural ecosystems; and 2) To protect, restore and enhance the quality of the natural environment in the Cowichan estuary and its adjacent watersheds,
As a not-for-profit charitable society, the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre is governed by a volunteer board of directors under the Society’s Constitution and Bylaws. Current Board members are: Co-Chairs: Jim Wisnia and Tracey Brown; Secretary: Pamela Williams; Treasurer: Larry Lenske; Members at Large: Jane Kilthei, Dorothy Marshall, Madi Mayfield. The Centre’s Annual Reports are posted at the links below.