Society to add soaring 21-foot tower view to Somenos Marsh classroom

Fundraising is underway as the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society is planning to add a 21-foot viewing tower to the Somenos Marsh Open Air Classroom.

The SMWS has anted up $5,000 for the project, and is looking to provincial, federal and local sources to help with additional funding. If the funds flow in over the next year, construction could begin in spring of 2015.

"It will overlook an important salmon stream," said SMWS President

Paul Fletcher. "Part of the education we are doing in the OAC highlights salmon and the restoration efforts we are doing."

The tower will be the next phase in the development of the classroom by the Society, joining 800 feet of raised boardwalk, improvements to the parking lot and other amenities, and a recently completed viewing platform, funded by Cowichan Wheels.

"The SMWS have been actively restoring the OAC classroom site since 1989 when the property was a commercial property with a large parking lot," the society said in a media release. "The OAC now shows no sign of its commercial past and has now become one of the more popular walking and wildlife viewing sites close to Duncan’s urban core."

Cowichan Valley company Macdonald & Lawrence Timber Framing Ltd. – the same contractor that refurbished the Kinsol Trestle and built both the new Maritime Centre addition and wildlife viewing tower in Cowichan Bay – will design and build the viewing tower at the Somenos Marsh. The platform floor will be approximately 21 feet above the ground and 12 feet square in order to allow for group presentation. It will be seen clearly from the Trans Canada Highway, boosting the visibility of the entire OAC.

"The structure will provide a 360-degree view of the Somenos Marsh Conservation Area, enabling visitors to view wildlife on Somenos Lake to the northeast," the SMWS said.

As with the rest of the OAC, the tower will include interpretive signage in both English and Hul’qumi’num, focusing on fish habitat and the role of the marsh in salmon life cycles.

"SMWS volunteers and supporters will play a large part in the management, construction and acquisition of materials and services," the release said. "As with past projects, and the SMWS’s belief in the regional economic benefits of wildlife viewing, efforts will be made to spend all money locally using Valley area suppliers and

contractors."

The viewing tower will incorporate engraved steps and floorboards like those used to construct the OAC boardwalks. Past projects have raised $40,000, with 1,000 engraved boards being purchased.

For more information or to donate to the project, contact the SMWS at info@somenosmarsh. com or 250-732-0462.