The Boreal Discovery Centre’s gradual transformation over the last couple years was put on display Sept. 28 during the board’s annual general meeting.
While the Thompson Zoo that used to occupy the site since 1978 closed down in 2012, the facility at 110 UCN Drive has been subject to a significant re-imagining since its official re-launch in late 2014.
Outside of an obvious name change, this reinvention includes physical alterations like a new mezzanine, new flooring, a new fish exhibit and wheelchair-accessible bathrooms for the main building.
“This is 1000 per cent better than what it used to be,” said chairperson Keith MacDonald at the beginning of the meeting. “So we’re very proud of this room and all the hard work that we put into it.”
While MacDonald pointed out that the centre’s new outdoor renovations still need some work— features that include a greenhouse, an amphitheatre, and a boardwalk—he also mentioned that they’re changing the way they approach animal captivity.
Through working with a company out of Seattle, Washington that specializes in zoo design, the Boreal Discovery Centre is now dedicated to displaying local wildlife in a way that is much more humane and educational in nature.
“We’re going to educate the public by having workshops, classrooms, things … on animal care and how they take care of themselves in the wild and what they mean to the ecosystem as a whole,” said MacDonald.
The clearest attempt to hammer this philosophy home is the facility’s new fish exhibit, which was installed throughout the summer.
According to Elyse Gervais, a fisheries technician for the provincial government, these aquariums give locals the chance to get more familiar with, and gain empathy for, certain species of fish such as the lake sturgeon.
“When they can see something and be close to it, especially the kids I find, they get a connection to it,” said Gervais following the meeting. “They become more adamant about protecting it, I guess, in a sense.”
Outside of putting Canada’s largest freshwater fish on display for public viewing, the Boreal Discovery Centre is also committed to helping protect this endangered species through working with professionals like Gervais.
“We do a lot of sturgeon rehabilitation and that’s because the species was kind of depleted throughout the years,” said Gervais, talking about her work for the government. “And so I was part of helping re-establish the population through educational programs.”
Looking ahead, MacDonald said the board still has a lot of work to do, and doesn’t anticipate that these ongoing renovations with be completed until at least 2019. Not only do they have to co-ordinate the construction of the remaining exhibits, but they also have to fundraise the money to do it, a price tag that hovers around $3 million.
However, if they pull this off, MacDonald believes the Boreal Discovery Centre could attain the same prestigious status as attractions like the Heritage North Museum, which would do wonders for Thompson’s appeal as a tourism destination.
“Not only will it be a legacy project for Thompson, but it’ll be the next star attraction for Thompson, and that would go a long way.”
If you would like to volunteer for or donate money to the Boreal Discovery Centre, please contact Keith MacDonald at 204-307-1850 or email@example.com.