The Birth of a Promise:
Opening the Houston Nature Centre
By Cindy Verbeek, Northern BC Coordinator
You know that feeling when you are happy but exhausted, yet you know the journey has just begun? If you have had a child, you know what I’m talking about. For years you dream and work and think and share and dream again, but nothing seems to fit. Then God brings just the right people or circumstances into your life and suddenly what was just a thought could actually become a reality.
After 12 years of working in Houston on various environmental initiatives as a part-time A Rocha staff, I finally hit on what this community really cares about. Fish! I know, I know… I’m a little slow on the uptake. After all, we live just minutes away from the Bulkley River, one of only two rivers in the world with purely wild steelhead and world class steelhead fishing. Not to mention being at the headwaters of the Bulkley River that feeds into the mighty Skeena – home to all 5 species of Pacific salmon found in North America.
Enter training and work with Pacific Streamkeepers Federation and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Stream to Sea Program, and I had a hook. Houston is a small logging town on the Yellowhead highway and is home to the world’s largest sawmill and a community of people who highly value the land and river for their work, leisure, and health. In an unlikely partnership of loggers, miners, farmers, fishermen, hunters and residents, the idea for a salmon hatchery was born. In 2015, a successful pilot hatchery was run in a 10×10 ft shed in someone’s backyard. In 2017, A Rocha staff and volunteers built a small stewardship hatchery. Canadian Forest Products (aka Canfor) partnered with A Rocha to provide just over an acre of land to carry out the vision of enhancing Upper Bulkley coho, and thus, the Buck Creek Canfor Hatchery was opened.
But there was a broader vision that had been brewing in my heart since God and I sat in a forest in Michigan 30 years ago, during a summer class at the Au Sable Institute for Environmental Studies. That is to have a place for education and learning about creation IN creation, and not just from books.
This is the story that unfolded this year in the form of the Nature Centre addition to A Rocha’s hatchery project in Houston. A 50×30 ft addition onto the existing 20×30 ft Fish Hatchery, the Nature Centre houses a display and learning area as well as an outdoor classroom space.
Since we were not able to have a celebration in April of 2021 when the main building was completed, we had a soft opening on Earth Day (April 22) and opened the doors to small school groups and summer visitors until COVID-19 protocols allowed us to have a larger gathering.
Since that time, 407 people have signed the guest book, 27 programs with school groups have been held, and 27 children and 20 adult helpers have participated in a week-long summer day camp. We were even blessed to have our very first summer staff thanks to a grant from Canada Summer Jobs and 4 amazing young people helped with day camp, built a new pond habitat, and welcomed visitors to explore the displays.
On August 25, over 100 people gathered for a barbecue celebration and to enjoy the newly completed Nature Centre. A Rocha staff and board from Winnipeg, Hamilton, Surrey and Prince George all came to celebrate, as well as Four Rivers Coop Staff from Vanderhoof. We are so thankful for those who took the time and energy to travel to celebrate with us! Our supporter appreciation wall includes 11 granting agencies, 70 local businesses and 182 individuals from across Canada who have helped over the past 5 years to make this facility a reality, and we can’t be more grateful!
We have made it to the starting line! Much like birthing a child (with a gestation period of about 30 years), the Buck Creek Canfor Hatchery and Nature Centre has been born… and now the real work begins!
Follow the Buck Creek Canfor Nature Centre and Hatchery Facebook Group for our open hours, community discussions, and the latest updates.