Pender Harbour residents want to build ocean discovery centre; need to raise $2M

Click to play video: 'Pender Harbour angles for new tourist attraction'
Pender Harbour angles for new tourist attraction
Thu, Mar 16: The town of Pender Harbour is hoping its plans for a new Ocean Discovery Centre will solve two of its most pressing problems. Linda Aylesworth has the story – Mar 16, 2017

Pender Harbour is a picturesque community of fewer than 3,000 people on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast.

With bays and boats and unique fish species popping up in its waters, there’s plenty to attract potential visitors. But it’s an aging community, and it’s been tough to lure tourists there year-round.

A group of residents calling themselves the Ruby Lake Lagoon Society have an idea to change that: they want to build the Pender Harbour Ocean Discovery Station (PODS).

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It’s a research facility that would include a lab, a conference centre, fresh and saltwater aquariums, a restaurant and teaching facilities.

“What we want to build is a state-of-the-art building for doing research and monitoring of all the aquatic areas in this region,” Dr. Michael Jackson, executive director of the Ruby Lake Lagoon Society and a scientist who studies aquatic ecology, told Global News.

The project has the support of the Pender Harbour business community.

Locals hope that the facility could bring more young families and tourists in the months of November to April.

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“Going into the winter here, it gets really, really quiet,” said Lisa Johnston of the Mad Park Bistro in nearby Madeira Park.

“It was a bit of a challenge to keep the doors open and pay staff.”

Conventions happen in the offseason, and such a facility could help, said Michael Kohli of the Painted Boat Resort, also in Madeira Park.

What the facility has is support. What it needs is money.

The Ruby Lake Lagoon Society has so far raised $400,000 to buy a piece of land for the facility at Irvine’s Landing, at the entrance to Pender Harbour.

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They need another $2 million to make the land theirs.

It’s a lot of money. But Jackson has “no doubt” that PODS will be built one day.

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