Thompson Rivers University president Alan Shavers was in Clearwater recently, seeking input for the university’s five-year strategic plan.
One element of that plan that we would like to see go ahead would be the proposed education and research center for Wells Gray Park.
The structure was to have been built in 2013 but delays in getting permits plus other problems caused it to be put back until next year.
For the Wells Gray TRU Wilderness Center not to be constructed in 2014, the 75th anniversary year of Wells Gray Park, would be a shame and a waste.
The proposed education and research center would be a benefit to TRU in a number of ways.
The park is essentially a very large and unspoiled watershed. It contains a wide variety of ecosystems, all largely untouched by human beings. There are animals such as wolves and wolverines that do not do well anywhere close to people. There are a number of unusual volcanic features as well.
There is also a tradition of research in the park, perhaps most notably the work done on moose and other ungulates by Ralph Ritcey in the 1950s.
This tradition has been carried on by people such as Trevor Goward with lichens and Cathie Hickson with volcanoes.
All the research work done to date in Wells Gray Park is presently being collected and made accessible electronically.
TRU (formerly Caribou College) has operated a small education and research center for the park in the former Upper Clearwater schoolhouse since 1992.
Despite the primitive nature of the facilities, the college and now TRU has documented about 15,000 user-days by over 1,200 different users.
The Wells Gray TRU Wilderness Center would benefit the residents of the Wells Gray/Clearwater area as well as the university.
The viability and success of any community these days is largely dependent on the education and training level of its inhabitants.
We don’t all have to be academics or intellectuals, but we do all need to be very good at whatever it is we do for a living – and we need to be constantly improving.
The proposed education and research center would attract world class scientists to this area – and those people would be working on problems with direct connections to where we live.
There seems to be an unfortunate perception by some that the proposed Wells Gray TRU Wilderness Center would be in opposition to the local forest industry.
This perception is in contrast to that of a former provincial politician a number of years ago. He favored upgrading the existing education and research center as the first step to converting Wells Gray Park into a research forest – a forest that could be logged to test various harvesting techniques.
We don’t favor either the log-it-all or the preservationist lock-it-up approach.
The proposed Wells Gray TRU Wilderness Center would be an asset to the university and to the people of this area. Let’s make it happen in 2014.