Finally, the end is in sight to a decade-long animal hospital rebuilding project at the Medicine River Wildlife Centre.
The $1.2-million renovation of the animal hospital near Spruce View is expected to be completed this summer, largely because of the generosity of major donors, Ruth and Dorothy Bower.
“They are my saviours, my heroes,” said executive director Carol Kelly, who can’t disclose the donated amount, except to say it’s “significant” and is allowing important work to proceed.
She’s not only grateful to the Bower sisters, but to an anonymous donor who’s making a large bequest, to businesses that have done work-in-kind, and corporations that also helped finance the project first proposed in 2009.
Largely due to these private contributions, Kelly looks forward to the June opening of a newly rebuilt interpretive centre. An outdoor playground is also almost ready for kids, she said — “we’re just finishing up the landscaping and finishing touches.”
Kelly envisions the centre’s young visitors watching animals as they play, since the playground is located next to a newly built outdoor flying enclosure for the centre’s ambassador owl Otis, as well as an outdoor cage for the educational skunk, Fang.
Construction is also moving forward on the Medicine River wildlife hospital. Kelly said the interior walls are going up. Work on the electrical, plumbing and heating is being done, “and we’ve got the flooring already picked out.”
She expects the new hospital to be ready for the first intake of injured wildlife by the end of the summer. Some of these hopes are still riding on a $125,000 government grant to be announced in July, which would pay for finishing work.
Once the new facility is open and the dilapidated space no longer needed, she said the old wooden building will be sold and “recycled.” The centre did this with part of the closed former building, which was bought for about $5,000 by two buyers who were going to use the wood for a horse barn and workshop.
The large hospital renovation/rebuild project has had many ups and downs — including losing out on a government grant, and falling victim to a contractor that Kelly alleges took money without finishing work. A lawsuit has been launched.
But for every pitfall, Kelly said she has been overwhelmed by community support through the centre’s various fundraisers, including a sale of donated owl collectibles and Otis the Owl kids’ books.
The centre is now welcoming intern students from across Canada, as well as the U.S. and Germany.
Kelly said these animal science students will be training at the centre for a five-month term. While April is a slow month, the wildlife hospital gets busy in May when young animals and more migrating wildlife are out and about.
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