The BC Forest Discovery Centre has played a vital role in showcasing the history of the forestry industry.
But Chris Gale, general manager of the Centre, suggests the facility has not been as effective in communicating what is happening now or what the future will look like.
“Our mandate is to show the past, present and future and the newest (piece of equipment) we had was from 1978,” Gale explained at a gathering marking the official opening of the Centre’s Forests Forever exhibit.
Joined by forestry industry leaders, politicians, investors and supporters of the $1.3 million project that has been more than two years in the development stage, Gale called the unveiling on Wednesday “a momentous event” as the Discovery Centre enters a new era.
“We are updating and revitalizing our message and the new exhibit is just fantastic.”
The exhibit area features new, immersive and interactive exhibits that follow the life cycle of a tree from seedling to finished product. The project also included revitalization of the museum entry and façade, and new technological applications to engage visitors with the outdoor exhibits on the 100-acre property that is located in North Cowichan, just north of Duncan.
Ladysmith mayor Aaron Stone, representing Island Coastal Economic Trust, said the organization’s $400,000 investment in the project was money well-spent.
“This is important to the entire region,” Stone said. “This is an anchor piece and it’s important for the younger generation to see that forestry is vital and has evolved greatly.
“This will enhance visibility and the importance of forestry for students, forestry workers and visitors from outside the region,” Stone said.
Traffic at the BC Forest Discovery Centre has been increasing steadily, climbing from 29,000 annual visitors four years ago to 60,000 this year. Gale expects the number to hit 75,000 now that Forests Forever is open.
Alf Carter, president of the BC Forest Discovery Centre board of directors, said the completion of the Forests Forever vision was a “huge leap” for the Centre.
“This will change the footprint of the facility. It is absolutely incredible. We are seeing the technology of the 2019 era and where is there a better place to see the innovations that are taking place in the forestry industry?
“This is a great day for the BC Forest Discovery Centre.”
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring praised the Centre for its efforts in expanding the story of forestry in the Cowichan Valley.
“We’re having an important discussion right now about forest management and it’s all about sustainability,” Siebring said.
“We were built on this industry.”
Funding for the Forests Forever project came from a number of sources including Western Forest Products, TimberWest, the Truck Loggers Association, Harmac, Sustainable Forestry Initiative and others.