Wildlife centre needs upgrading

The failure of a heating system has heightened the urgent need for improvements to the aging Medicine River Wildlife Centre, a centre official says.

The failure of a heating system has heightened the urgent need for improvements to the aging Medicine River Wildlife Centre, a centre official says.

Carol Kelly, centre executive director, said Thursday that upgrades for the nonprofit wildlife hospital centre and education centre near Spruce View are needed immediately.

Repairs to walls, plumbing and electrical systems have been necessary for five years now but there’s a new sense of urgency with the latest heating system failure.

“There are areas where we can no longer turn the lights on,” Kelly said.

She said when the centre was built in 1990, officials didn’t imagine the need and the significant increase in demand for services.

“We’ve become far bigger than anticipated.

“We’re bursting at the seams but we’re still doing really well.” But the 21-year-old facility is showing its age. Kelly said the centre was built on a shoestring budget with a lot of home grade type of work.

Kelly said the upgrade can be accomplished in a two-phase stage.

Some $650,000 is needed for renovations to the existing wildlife hospital and a new hospital wing.

She said improvements can’t be performed on just one aspect of the facility without improving the overall complex.

In 1990, in-floor slab heating was economical and efficient but recent information shows that the original PVC pipe used in the floor is breaking down.

At least 50 per cent of the building in now cold.

Kelly said what worries her is that cold weather and winter are just around the corner.

“We need a cold storage room instead of a bunch of freezers for example,” Kelly said.

She also said recent heavy rains has resulted in water seepage. The complex was built as an information centre where people brought in injured or animals requiring care.

“Now we have a demand for tourism,” Kelly said.

The centre also requires an improved visitor centre and increased staff room to handle on average about 14 foreign students yearly the centre handles.

The centre has three full-time and one full-time summer staff person as well as a dozen volunteers.

Kelly said the centre hopes to hire two or three more full-time staff.

“If we’re going to be everything people want us to be we need an improved facility.”

She said overall renovations, including two new wings, will ultimately cost about $2 million.

Kelly said the first step in raising money is letting the public know the centre needs help.

“All those people who we have helped, now it’s time for them to help us.”

She said the next steps include corporate assistance and grants. A Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP) grant is a possibility.

However, that grant is greatly determined on how much money in matching funds can be raised.

Kelly said for every dollar donated the grant, if approved, will match it.

Volunteer labour is also matched on a dollar value.

jwilson@bprda.wpengine.com