The site of the new Wells Gray Education and Research Centre in Upper Clearwater will open Nov. 24, 2020. Photo courtesy of TRU

New research centre encourages biodiversity studies

An grand-opening event will take place virtually on Nov. 24 for the new Wells Gray Education and Research Centre in Upper Clearwater

The Wells Gray Education and Research Centre in Upper Clearwater will be officially open by the end of November.

An official opening event will be held virtually on Nov. 24 by key university and community leaders. Starting at 1 p.m., the event will “explore the importance of this centre for ecological research,” according to a press release from Thompson Rivers University.

“The Wells Gray Education and Research Centre is truly a gem in this district of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District,” said TNRD director for Area A, Carol Schaffer.

“I know that this new building will help draw even more tourists and researchers alike to see the unique biodiversity in the area.”

The site includes land and buildings associated with the Upper Clearwater School that has been operated by TRU since 1992. This new addition adds a 2,345-square-foot building, replacing the old schoolhouse as the main centre.

Nestled at the edge of Wells Gray Provincial Park, the education and research centre will accommodate year-round visits to the area known for its unique biodiversity.

“The Wells Gray Research and Education Centre is located on the unceded Secwepemc lands of the Simpcwul’ecw and Tsq’escenemc,” said Simpcw Chief Shelly Loring.

“The use, occupancy and landmarks left by Secwepemc ancestors, lends to the uniqueness of this education centre. Simpcw also recognizes the unique biodiversity surrounding the area of where the centre is located.

“Simpcw are proud that their territorial lands will be utilized to further enhance the knowledge and respect for our territories and culture.”

An estimated cost of $861,000 went towards building the new centre with funds obtained as gifts and through various grants and contributions. Donors include Ken Lepin, Trevor Goward, Helen Knight, the Wells Gray Community Forest Corporation, Roland and Anne Neave and TRU Faculty of Science.

In addition, significant contributions from Horizon North Logistics made the project a reality, said the release.

Located in British Columbia’s fourth-largest park, students will be able to study in a destination made famous for tourism and research and as a result, the site has a great deal of research potential for students and researchers from a wide array of disciplines.

“Over the past 25 years, TRU’s Education and Research Centre has provided hundreds of students with memorable, hands-on experience with Wells Gray’s wildlife and all of the treasures that the park protects,” said former Faculty of Science dean and current faculty member in Biological Sciences, Tom Dickinson.

“These new facilities will allow even more future students to benefit from the unique learning opportunities that this place offers.”

The new centre is wheelchair-accessible and features meeting, classroom and dining spaces, as well as a kitchen and sleeping quarters for 20.

The area surrounding the centre is a major habitat for mountain caribou and forms part of the migration route for grizzlies in B.C. There are an estimated 15,000 grizzly bears in the province, representing nearly one-quarter of North America’s grizzly bear population.

“As someone who worked in Wells Gray Provincial Park for 30 years, I have a deep love for this awe-inspiring place,” said Mayor Merlin Blackwell.

“Having TRU’s new Wells Gray Education and Research Centre up and running will do wonders to enhance understanding of the park, and will hopefully give TRU students a little piece of the wonder I experienced in my time in Wells Gray.”

The public is invited to join here via Microsoft Teams. In addition, a video highlighting the past, present and future of this centre can be found here.