North Cowichan will donate up to $3,000 to help the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society repair its wildlife viewing platform in the marsh that was vandalized in April.
Staff had recommended that the municipality donate $7,500 towards the repairs based on an assessment by Dave Coulson Design, the tower’s builder, to return the six-metre tower to its original condition.
But at its last meeting in June, council decided to lower the donation request from the society based on statements by Paul Fletcher, president of the SMWS, earlier in the meeting in which he said the society expected to repair the tower at a much lower cost.
“The $7,500 figure was the quote that Dave Coulson Design gave us and that would involve replacing any of the wood that is even slightly burnt,” Fletcher said.
“But we plan on doing the work ourselves and we figure we can do it for about $2,000 or $2,500, although a fair amount of new material will need to be purchased. By getting Dave Coulson’s quote for the full affair [for the repairs], we wanted charges to be laid against the culprits who did the damage to the tower. Charges are recommended, but that’s all we know for now.”
The tower, which was built in 2019, is located near the entrance to the Open Air Classroom at the Somenos Marsh, an educational outdoor experience that includes a multi-use trail network, elevated boardwalk and informational signage about some of the 200 bird species that make the marsh their home.
It cost about $75,000 to build, helped out by donations from David Coulson Design, Mosaic Forest Management and Canadian Bavarian Lumber, among many others.
The vandals started a fire that burned a hole right through the platform at the top of the viewing tower early on the morning of April 22 which, ironically, was Earth Day.
The culprits kicked out wooden railings in the lower part of the tower structure and carried them to the top of the tower where they started a fire with the railings and some garbage.
An RCMP officer happened to be driving by at the time and spotted flames at the top of the tower.
He rushed up, caught the culprits in the act and put the fire out but by then, the fire had burned through the viewing platform and into the heavy cedar beams underneath.