Better bird viewing

Residents now have access to a new state-of-the-art public viewing platform at the Vaseux Lake Wildlife Refuge in the South Okanagan.

Area dignitaries, volunteers and residents gathered at the location Friday for the grand opening of the three-storey structure, known as a bird blind.

“I am extremely happy,” said project manager Eva Durance. “I think it’s going to be a wonderful community facility and resource and conservation education centre.”

Located on Crown land, the blind has been a project of the Important Bird and Biodiversity Area program of BirdLife International, run in the province through BC Nature.

With the help of the provincial and federal governments, nonprofit organizations, local businesses and individuals it was put together over four and a half years, replacing the one built in the 1990s.

Now finished the structure allows the public to enjoy the refuge in comfort, with minimal disturbance to birds and other wildlife.

From the top covered deck, one has a panoramic view of the lake, cliffs and surrounding grasslands.

The second level is enclosed with shutters over openings at various heights and a door. This protects visitors from inclement weather, especially in winter, and deters rodents from moving in.

The entry level is wheelchair accessible.

On Friday there was a brief program at the site including introductions from Robert Stewart, an ecosystem biologist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources operations, and brief speeches by Durance, who spearheaded the project, and MP Richard Cannings.

Stewart thanked all those involved, starting with Durance, the Vaseux IBBA volunteer caretaker, and all the others who made it happen, describing it as truly a community effort.

Durance thanked everyone who thought replacing the former one was a good idea, while Cannings said the first blind was great but this one is even better.

There was also a ribbon cutting and tours of the new bird blind.

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