THE SOMENOS OPEN AIR CLASSROOM
Environmental and ecological education the nature-al way
Our commitment is to provide access to the Somenos Marsh Conservation Area
so people of all ages & abilities can learn & enjoy in natures own “classroom”
The Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society celebrated completion in December 2008 of Watts Walk, the first phase of the Open Air Classroom. Watts Walk is a 500 foot walkway and 16 ft by 16 ft viewing platform into Somenos Marsh at the southwest corner of the marsh (see map, below).
Watts Walk replaced the historic boardwalk, build originally by Syd and Emily Watts. It is the first of a planned three-stage project to construct an Open Air “Classroom” and loop trail at the site.
Phase 2 involves constructing an additional 350 feet of walkway north to Bings Creek. As of June 2010, fund raising has been successful for the second stage and we're hopeful we can begin construction in the fall.
Phase 3 will close the circle, connecting the first two stages of Watt's Walk with another 800 feet of boardwalk, and a crushed garvel trail. The construction budget is $50,000 and as of July 2010, fundraising is underway. WE'D LIKE TO SECURE FUNDING BY MID-SUMMER, so we can build the third stage in the fall of 2010 while we're building Phase 2.
The new boardwalk is constructed to the highest standards, on a series of tandem 4 inch by 4 inch cedar piles, to a level where the walkway portion will be above 80-year high water levels. The decking of the boardwalk is clad with Trex, made of recycled wood and plastic, extremely durable and NOT slippery when wet.
The project makes a significant contribution towards educating future generations about the benefits of responsible eco-system management and environmental awareness. The Open Air Classroom includes a large interpretative sign at the entrance together with numerous small interpretative signs along the way.
The project will assist in building a new winter economy in the Cowichan Valley. The best bird-watching on Vancouver Island is in Somenos Marsh during the winter and early spring migratory periods. Bird-watching has experienced massive growth in recent years as the demographic bubble of baby-boomers move into affluent retirement, and are looking for low-impact outdoor activities. It's a perfect fit for the growing Cowichana tourist economy, a magnet for visitors and a potential boon to existing facilities and businesses.
The project will provide safe and zero impact access into the Somenos Marsh. The new boardwalk will be constructed to the highest standards which will allow the public to access to the marsh safely with no environmental impact. The boardwalk will also facilitate ongoing research and ecosystem monitoring.
It will create an outdoor “classroom” for school programs. Developing awareness in future generations of the interrelatedness and importance of the environment including all flora & fauna will assist in improving and sustaining the health of the planet.
The project will bring the long-term vision for the area much closer to reality. The “big picture” plans call for the creation of a trail system linking Somenos Marsh, BC Forest Discovery Centre, Timbercrest Gary Oak Protected area, the Cowichan Sportsplex, the Freshwater Eco-Center, the Quw’utsun Cultural Center and downtown Duncan.
Figure 1 Location of Boardwalk in the Somenos Open Air Classroom
Phase 2 funding
is in place!
Now for Phase 3...
to the Open Air Classroom project.
We will place a board engraved with a name
of your choice on the new boardwalk.
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