There’s new technology that is moving forestry forward quickly and folks will be able to learn about it at the Centre, says manager Chris Gale. (Citizen file)

‘Forests Forever’ project at Forest Discovery Centre gets $400K boost

Announced last fall, the ‘Forests Forever’ project is gathering steam as donations come in

The BC Forest Discovery Centre’s $1.3 million Forests Forever project is getting a $400,000 boost from the Island Coastal Economic Trust.

Aimed at injecting new life into the Centre, Forests Forever will make it the premier tourism destination on the B.C. Coast to learn about forestry — past, present and future, say proponents.

The Centre originally announced the project in October 2017 and has been pulling in donations from all over since then. Western Forest Products has donated $250K, TimberWest has put in $150K, and the Truck Loggers Association has stepped up with $75K already, bringing the total in hand to $975K.

There’s plenty of excitement about the new display, too.

“For over half a century, the Forest Discovery Centre has been educating the public and our youth about British Columbia’s rich history in the forest sector,” said Doug Donaldson, minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “These interactive exhibits will modernize the centre’s ability to educate and will serve to inspire young minds to seek out forestry jobs and contribute to the forest sector’s ongoing legacy in B.C.”

The project will feature new, immersive and interactive exhibits that follow the life cycle of a tree from seedling to finished product. The project will also include revitalization of the museum entry and façade, and an interactive phone app will create a ‘Pokémon Go’ style game, to engage visitors with the outdoor exhibits on the 100-acre property.

“The advances in technology over the past few decades have transformed many aspects of the forest sector and are creating new opportunities for the future,” said Chris Gale, the centre’s executive director. “Today’s industry uses drones and LiDAR to map and optimize use of forest lands, uses biotechnology to transform wood fibre into new products such as fuels, lubricants and food additives and has been pioneering use of cross-laminated timbers to replace steel in multi-story building construction.”

ICET’s economic analysis assessment estimates that 30 new permanent local jobs will be created through the economic activity generated by the project over the next three to five years. Construction alone will create an additional 5.3 person-years of short term employment, the group says.

“The evolution of forestry from hand-sawn logs to technologies such as LiDAR is a fascinating transformation that has kept the industry the lifeblood of our economy from B.C.’s earliest days to today, said Bruce Ralston, minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology. “The BC Forest Discovery Centre is a vital educational tool, and this funding ensures that it, like our forest industry, continues to grow and evolve with the times.”

The project is an example of successful non-profit sector and private sector collaboration, advocates say. Project partners include major forestry companies, contractors, manufacturers and industry associations, providing design and development input as well as approximately two-thirds of project funding.

“Many people might not realize how much forestry has evolved in the past few decades, and this renewal of the Forest Discovery Centre will help showcase forest innovation and sustainability practices to the public,” said Phil Kent, mayor of Duncan and chair of ICET. “We are especially pleased to see the wide range of industry players supporting this community-based organization with funding and expertise, helping to grow new experiential tourism assets that celebrate our history and connection to our natural resources.”

Final project concept planning and construction will get underway shortly, with completion of the project forecast for fall of this year.

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