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Scout Island, still a home to nature in Williams Lake, 45 years on

Nature centre still a hub for nature education, celebration, knowledge, nearly half a century on
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Supporters of the Scout Island Nature Centre attended a fundraising banquet on April 21, 2023 to help raise funds, enjoy a dinner, and hear both the annual report for the nature centre as well as a talk by Frank Ritcey. (Bette Donahue photo)

Scout Island Nature Centre presented their annual report in April, highlighting some of the programs providing a source for education and engagement with nature in the heart of Williams Lake.

Scout Island Nature Centre is operated by the Williams Lake Field Naturalists in partnership with the City of Williams Lake and the Nature Trust of BC, which owns the land.

The report was presented at the fundraising banquet for Scout Island on April 21, which returned to bring fine food and a presentation by Frank Ritcey, the Outdoor Guy on CBC’s North by Northwest.

Programs are offered throughout the year at Scout Island, and the report detailed many nature programs and presentations, from Chilcotin Birds to a virtual trip to Ethiopia.

In 2022, 14 field trips were hosted for members and included trips to local Fox Mountain trails, to Farwell Canyon, and Churn Creek.

The work of the field naturalists in the area which contributes to larger projects includes working on the Blue Bird Route which supports this grassland species and the Christmas Bird Count in the area each year.

Williams Lake Field Naturalists have managed the Scout Island Nature Centre since 1978 in order to provide nature education for all ages, conserve the area’s wildlife habitat, provide wildlife viewing opportunities, and gathering space for programs on natural history, research, conservation and actions towards ecological sustainability.

In 2022, Scout Island saw 360 children taking part in summer programs, 260 nature programs were presented to school classes and other groups, and at least 12,000 visitors explored the local trails.

Every Wednesday, Tales and Trails for zero to five year-olds meets at 10:30 a.m. outside the nature house for a program including stories and exploration of the park trails.

Grade 7 and Grades 9-12 classes from the area attend Stream to Sea Programs, offered in partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, learning about salmon and the impacts of climate change on this important species.

The completion of some boardwalk upgrades were noted in the report, as well as some off-island work like promoting better air quality through Go By Bike Week projects and programs. In 2022 Go By Bike participants logged 4,729 km of opting for walking or riding or wheeling.

READ MORE: Scout Island Nature Centre volunteers applauded for their efforts toward accessibility

Scout Island also works with the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Society to to bring the Art in Nature programs.

Scout Island also supports the Community Bat Program in the region, helping educate property owners about how to deal with bats, a protected species.

With all the things going on at Scout Island and their many and varied programs, they are not surprisingly supported by more than the fee-for service provided by the City of Williams Lake and Cariboo Regional District. The organization also has been supported by fundraising done by local volunteers. The Williams Lake Garden Club generously donated the proceeds of their garden tour to the nature centre. Anne Brown made a calendar featuring local photographs she then sold them as a fundraiser for their operations, and many other volunteers and community groups continue to help keep the nature centre operating.

Incredibly, this is still only a partial list of all the work the nature centre does in the community and groups they collaborate with.

This year will the longtime executive director of the facility will be mentoring her replacement. Sue Hemphill will be stepping down and a new executive director is being searched for. For more information on the Scout Island Nature Centre, the Williams Lake Field Naturalists and the work they do, go to: www.scoutisland.ca

The group also posts publications at https://williamslakefieldnaturalists.ca/research-publications/

READ MORE: Cariboo-based researcher working to address global illegal wildlife trade



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Ruth Lloyd

About the Author: Ruth Lloyd

I moved back to my hometown of Williams Lake after living away and joined the amazing team at the Williams Lake Tribune in 2021.
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