The EcoCentre established a home for MARS educational programs and a source of revenue to support its wildlife rehabilitation program.
Courtenay’s Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) has provided wildlife rehabilitation and education to central and northern Vancouver Island since the mid-1990s. A necessary move to a new site created an opportunity to increase the scope of their educational offerings by developing a new visitor facility to attract educational tourism, families and other visitors interested in wildlife rehabilitation. The North Island is already an established wildlife tourism destination attracting international visitors and the Black Creek area (where the facility is now located) already attracts families, creating a perfect market opportunity for a new wildlife education facility.
Built on a 4.4-hectare site between Courtenay and Campbell River, the Society’s new Wildlife Eco Centre features West Coast modern architectural style, with a design that allows visitors to move at their own pace through the components. The different spaces and hands-on educational displays provides visitors with an experience of moving through different meadow, forest, ocean shore and wetland environments. The Visitor Centre also features a small theatre screening nature movies, closed-circuit camera viewing of the activities in the wildlife hospital facility, as well as the recovering wildlife in the aviary. The site further includes trails and a wetland area with interpretive signage.
Completed in 2019, the Wildlife Eco Centre is expected to attract more than 10,000 visitors and educational tourists per year, supporting an estimated six new permanent local jobs. The Eco Centre received almost 300 people and made $3500 through sales of merchandise, memberships and donations during the opening weekend and has hired a half time manager and a part-time student to work in the Centre.