Honouring Eric Marshall’s 90th Birthday!

The Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre is proud to honour Eric Marshall in the event of his 90th birthday!

We are hosting a drop-in birthday “party” at the Nature Centre to celebrate a lifetime of dedication to nature and community. Come and drop by to speak with Eric and Dorothy, view a slideshow of images from his adventures and community work and tour the Nature Centre.

In lieu of gifts Eric is asking that you consider making a donation to the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre. Click the link below to be redirected to our Canada Helps donation Page.  On behalf of Eric and the Nature Centre, thank you for your donation.

Donate to Eric’s 90th Restoration and Nature Education Fund

We look forward to seeing you here!



Eelgrass Restoration

Eelgrass Restoration Underway in Cowichan Bay


Cowichan Tribes, with support from the federal Coastal Restoration Fund, has teamed up with the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre to re-plant eelgrass in the Cowichan Estuary for a second year.  Eelgrass restoration is overseen by a team of eelgrass aficionados from SeaChange Marine Conservation Society. They will work with SCUBA divers and community volunteers to replant the northern area of the estuary. If all goes well, salmon will have a meadow to find shelter and food as they leave the river system or return home.

“For many years the northern side of the estuary has been lacking eelgrass while the southern side near Hecate Park has continued to thrive” said Chief Seymour of the Cowichan Tribes. “In historic times the elders tell of fields of eelgrass across the whole estuary where they raked crabs and harvested seafood. When the tide was out the table was set”.

The team will re-plant two areas on the northern end to supplement plants installed in June 2019 with the support of volunteers. The transplants from last year did fairly well, considering the big rain storm in late January, 2020. The sites will be monitored every 2 months to see how they fare this coming winter.

The Estuary Project including eelgrass restoration is a component of a larger CRF award of $2.7M for 5 years of restoration work on three different projects (Estuary Restoration, Riparian Restoration and Stoltz Sediment Remediation). During the first two years of the Estuary Project, Cowichan Tribes and Industry partners focused on completed a second breach of the WesCan Terminal Causeway and historic railway to reconnect the Cowichan River to the southern side of the estuary.  Studies were also completed to narrow down limiting factors to eelgrass growth in the estuary and to identify suitable areas to try replanting.  In 2019, we collectively transplanted 5,000 shoots. This year we are aiming for 6,000. The shoots are harvested from the southern end of the bay, which continues to do well.

Replanting will take place from August 24th through 29th.

Volunteers are needed to tie weights onto the eelgrass donor plants to ready them for the divers to restore the estuary.  We will meet at Hecate Park for 2 hour shifts, beginning at 9:30 am daily. We will follow a Safety Plan to keep everyone safe and comfortable.

For more information and to sign up, contact Nikki Wright (SeaChange): 250 652-1662 or email: seachange@shaw.ca

Or contact the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre at 250-597-2288 or email: coordinator@cowichanestuary.ca

Thanks to Peter and Everyone who participated in our Online Youth Leadership and Team-building Training!

Are you, or do you know a young person who is a climate activist or passionate about acting on behalf of nature? An evening and a day of interactive online leadership training with dynamite facilitator Peter Gibbs. More info here: http://www.cowichanestuary.ca/2019-youth-leadership-and-team-building-training/

2020 Youth Leadership and Team Building Training

2020 Youth Leadership and Team Building Training

We’re hosting our annual Youth Leadership Training, an interactive experiential workshop focusing on inclusion, diversity and shared leadership for youth, online this year. The training will start the evening of Friday May 8th from 6 – 8 pm, and continue Saturday, May 9th from 9 am – noon and 1- 4 pm and take place via Zoom which allows us to break into pairs and small groups.  There will also be breaks to eat lunch and spend some time outside in nature.

Led by Leadership and Engagement Organizing Facilitator Peter Gibbs, who has tons of both in-person and on-line facilitation experience working with young people, budding change-makers will have lots of opportunities to learn and practice leadership and team building skills.

The cost is $15 and we have bursaries available.  Just tell us why you’d like to attend.

The day will honour First Nations perspectives and offers opportunities to learn about how:

  • our stories tap into shared values, connect us in relationships and create positive change;
  • to build a team to create social and environmental change; and
  • to create a “Theory of Change” and take it out into the world.

It’s going to be an amazing interactive learning-filled day!

There will also be post-workshop opportunities for youth to be out in nature and put their leadership and team building skills into action on water conservation and hands-on watershed restoration projects in the Cowichan and Koksilah Watershed – and to get volunteer credits for school once we are able to gather again.

How to Register

Time: Friday, 6-8 pm and Saturday, 9 am-noon and 1-4 pm

Cost: $15 per person. We don’t want cost to keep young people from attending. We have bursaries available for those in need.

Email admin@cowichanestuary.ca and let us know if you need a bursary.

Register via eventbrite here

100 Men Who Care Donation!

A Big Win for Environmental Education!

100 Men Who Care Cowichan Valley have donated $11, 261 to the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre!

100 Men Who Care Cowichan Valley are an organization of men who meet quarterly to socialize, learn about local needs, and provide pooled funding to selected charities.

As proud recipients of their donation of $11, 261 the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre has many plans to put to good use these generously donated funds.

The Nature Centre’s mission is to engage the public – especially children and youths – in understanding natural systems and to foster stewardship.  We have a saltwater touch tank, watershed model, microscopes birdwatching telescope, and more.  Over 5000 visitors a year walk through the doors. Funds made available to 100 Men Who Care will be used to look after our vibrant Nature Centre, improve information displays and create new and exciting interactive displays and media.

In the spring and fall of 2019 over 1000 students came with their classes to the Centre for science-oriented programs and about 100 children came to summer day camps.  The Centre aims to double its hands-on watershed restoration work this coming spring, summer, and fall.  Transportation funding will enable more of these experiences, especially for students from low-income neighbourhoods. Funds to provide partial or full scholarship for students or youth in need will be used to expand our environmental outreach to those groups of society who are otherwise unable to take part in our programming due to the simple barrier of cost.

A massive thank you to 100 Men Who Care! You have each made a difference for children and nature in the Cowichan Valley!

Spring Break Restoration Camp – Cancelled

Spring Break Watershed Restoration Camp – Mar 19th & 20th – Cancelled


We are sad to announce that the Restoration March Break Camp scheduled for Thursday and Friday, March 19th and 20th, is now CANCELLED, consistent with increasing Corona virus health advisories.

Saturday’s World Planting Day on the lower Cowichan River is also CANCELLED.  We have made these decisions in consultation with our leader team and our restoration partner, the BC Conservation Foundation (BCCF).

We are looking forward to rescheduling the restoration camp on a weekend in June (watch for dates)  and will be working with BCCF and the Earth Guardians – Cowichan Valley to reschedule the World Planting/Restoration Day on the same beautiful site on the North Arm of  Cowichan River in the late spring or early summer, when we hope that our contribution to “flattening the curve of the Corona Virus” will again be allowing us to gather together in nature.

Stay tunes for these upcoming events – there will be opportunities for children and youth to get outdoors, soak up the beauty and joy of nature, and make a difference in the Cowichan Watershed by putting on their gloves and boots and getting to work with our education team, restoration biologist David Polster at Stoltz Bluff, and with BCCF biologist Danny Swainson where the North Arm of the Cowichan meets the Estuary.

Participants will learn about and explore native vegetation, river ecology and learn about planting native species and about the process of “live-staking” for restoring watersheds.  Children and youth will come home with new skills and inspired by nature and their experience of working together to restore a natural ecosystem!  It will happen!  And in the meantime wash you hands and take care of each other.

Questions?  Contact sierra@cowichanestuary.ca. Or phone:  250-597-2288

Larry’s 70th Birthday “Dare to be Wild” Fundraiser

Larry’s 70th Birthday “Dare to be Wild” Fundraiser

We did it!  On December 20th, Larry Lenske, the Nature Centre’s treasurer and one of our most long-standing and dedicated volunteers, turned 70!  He decided to do a fundraising campaign for the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre to mark the occasion and, thanks to all of you amazing and generous donors, he has raised $5,500Thank-you so much for your support!

Larry has been crunching numbers for the Nature Centre since our first development grant applications were submitted in 2011, and for every budget and financial statement since we opened our doors on Earth Day in 2012.  If there is anyone who truly understands how critical core operational funding is for a small non-profit to do its work in the world, it’s Larry.  He’s also come to think of his work with the Nature Centre as a piece of his climate change work.

Larry meeting his Fundraising Goal Means support for the Estuary Nature Centre in continuing to provide people, and especially young people, with experiential nature education and opportunities to engage in hands-on watershed restoration work on the banks of the Cowichan and Koksilah rivers and the Cowichan estuary where these rivers meet the ocean. In one week at the end of November we had over 80 grades 5-6 kids out doing riparian restoration work in the Cowichan Watershed and learning about eco-systems and climate impacts, and what we can do about them.  And there will be more of that in the new year.

And Yes, if you’d still like to donate, you can:

  1. Click here to make an online tax deductible donation
  2. Send a cheque made out to the “Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre” to CENC, (1845 Cowichan Bay Rd, Cowichan Bay, BC V0R 1N2)

Dares and Prize Winners: To keep things interesting Larry accepted some swimmingly cold “dares”.

Since he met his $3,000 goal, Larry will bungee jump nude into the Nanaimo River in March (Bonus: this is also a fundraiser for the BC Schizophrenic Society.) 

And since he surpassed his $5,000 goal, on winter Solstice, December 21st at 3pm, after Larry assured us all, “Worry not, Guy Johnston will be there with his skiff to drag my sorry ass out of the water as needed”,Larry did indeed swim the 170 metres (500 feet) from the Kayak Launch at the Cowichan Marine Gateway to the beach at the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre.  Thanks to those who came out to cheer him on!  And those who donated to the campaign, will get a link to the video.Come be part of the Cheering (or Heckling) Section. Paramedics will definitely be welcome. 

And Two of our Supporters Won Prizes by Each making a donation of $500 or more :

One will have Larry as Her Servant for a Day:  Larry will provide you will 8 hours of service of her choice – which is put together a spreadsheet for her retirement plan. 

The other has chosen Larry’s West Coast Trail Training Package: “How to make hiking the West Coast Trail something you endure less and enjoy more?” As a 22-time West Coast Trail hiker, Larry will take her on up to 3 personal training hikes on beautiful Vancouver Island and provide a customized packing and equipment pre-hike consultation as well as help to outfit her for the trek. 

Some Background – or How Did Larry Get Involved with the Nature Centre? Larry’s long-time partner in life and adventure is Jane, one of the Centre’s founders and its current board chair. A decade ago, in the midst of meetings to develop Cowichan Bay’s new official community plan it became clear that lots of people living locally didn’t know much about the Cowichan estuary, this complex and magical intertidal ecosystem on our doorstep, and its role in the health of the whole Cowichan Watershed. In February 2011 Jane came home from the Fishermen’s Wharf excited about an economic development funding opportunity that looked like a fit for building a Nature Interpretive Centre on the Cowichan Estuary – a place that would offer a window into learning about the estuary and ultimately falling in love with and caring for this place. Larry was game (or was that cajoled?) to do the many hours of number-crunching needed on grant applications and to support Jane in launching a local fundraising campaign. The Cowichan Community Land Trust agreed to be the sponsoring charitable non-profit; and the rest, as they say, is history.  Now the Centre is almost eight years old, has recently become its own separate charitable non-profit, and Larry is keen to help it continue to be able to engage youth in learning, leadership and restoration, and to do this work long into the future.

Despite being a long-time financial officer for Canada’s Agency for Cooperative Housing, Larry has often described himself as being Jane’s “lovely assistant”, or perhaps “beleaguered assistant”, in implementing her dreams and schemes. Truth be told, Larry is as passionate, in his way, as Jane is about what the Nature Centre does in the world – engaging people, both local and from afar, and especially young people, in having direct hands-on experiences in the estuary, giving them the opportunity to: 

  • fall in love with this amazing estuarine environment and the wider natural world; and 
  • be inspired to care for and restore it.  

A core part of Larry’s life is spending as much time as he can in the wild. When he’s not working on spreadsheets, he can often be found hiking the West Coast Trail – a 7-day backpacking trip he’s done 22 times, usually twice a year including an annual hike with grade 11 and 12 students from Frances Kelsey High – or hiking other trails or mountain paths here on the West Coast. If you enjoy the training hikes and want to do more, Larry leads an annual September West Coast Trail trek.

What Your Support Means – The Big Picture:  Larry says he sees this work as a local way to be a meaningful part of addressing eco-system destruction, species extinction and climate destabilization, while staying grounded in and connected to a special local place. 

Thanks to Everyone who came out to the Birthday Party at the Hub in Cowichan Station, shared an amazing potluck feast, and helped Larry take his fundraising goal over the top! 

A Special Big Thank-You to the marimba players from Machikichori for a magical musical evening of fun and dancing! 

Happy Solstice!



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