Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary improvements to benefit birdwatchers

Birdwatchers will have a much better view at Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary when a $313,000 project is finished over the winter.

Birdwatchers will have a much better view at Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary when a $313,000 project is finished over the winter.

This week, city council supported the spending of $150,000 in the 2010 capital budget towards a new viewing deck and stair replacement at the sanctuary next to Red Deer’s Kerry Wood Nature Centre. This amount is in addition to the $163,000 previously approved in 2009.

Nature centre executive director Jim Robertson said the project involves the bird blind and viewing deck just northeast of the centre.

These structures are almost 25 years old and over time, have been damaged by frost heaving and rot.

“They would have to be torn down in the not-so-distant future, so this way we’re getting them replaced before they become a safety hazard,” said Robertson on Tuesday.

As soon as the water freezes, work will begin.

The bird blind, next to the viewing deck, is an enclosed structure where people can peek through peep holes to look at the birds.

Robertson said the structure will be closed for a few months during the winter. When finished by spring, birdwatchers will notice a big difference.

The open viewing deck will have been removed.

“We’re combining the deck and the bird blind into a better bird blind,” said Robertson.

The new bird blind will have an upper level on it so that people will have a better view of the lake.

Robertson said the one structure will also lessen the impact on birds, too.

The nature centre’s other project was also approved for 2010.

Council approved spending $28,500 on converting the Allen Bungalow into a handicapped-accessible venue. The project involves an outdoor ramp and interior renovations.

The house, found directly west from the nature centre’s front entrance, was built in 1912 by Archibald Allen.

“It’s got a public meeting room in it that we rent out and at the moment, it’s one of only a few public buildings that isn’t handicapped accessible,” said Robertson.

Robertson said the nature centre is also waiting word on a federal grant of $28,500, which would be used for this $57,000 project.

Once news is received from Ottawa, construction will hopefully get underway, he said.