The grand opening of the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve and Rotary Interpretive Centre on Wednesday, May 15, 2002. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

The grand opening of the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve and Rotary Interpretive Centre on Wednesday, May 15, 2002. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

Chilliwack’s Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve celebrates 20 years with free event

‘It’s an opportunity for people who were involved at the beginning to continue to be involved’

The folks at Chilliwack’s Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve are getting ready to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the wetlands.

Back in 2002, folks flocked to the grand opening of the reserve and the Rotary Interpretive Centre, and on June 23, organizers are hoping to draw another big crowd to mark the past two decades.

“We’ve achieved an awful lot in the last 20 years. It’s well-loved and well-used,” said executive director Camille Coray.

She said the events planned for that day are coming together nicely.

The free event runs from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on June 23 where there will be guided walks, a bannock truck, tables and displays by several local conservation organizations, and a formal program.

There will be two guided walks during each of the following time slots: 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The formal program, which goes from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., will include a welcome and introductions from the Indigenous community, the City of Chilliwack, Environmental and Climate Change Canada, and the Rotary Club of Chilliwack, followed by keynote speaker, Dr. Carin Bondar, speaking on the importance of wetlands.

“It’s an opportunity for people who were involved at the beginning to continue to be involved,” Coray said.

Then-mayor Clint Hames (left) and Larry Stinson with the Rotary Club of Chilliwack stand atop the viewing tower during the grand opening of the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve and Rotary Interpretive Centre on Wednesday, May 15, 2002. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

Then-mayor Clint Hames (left) and Larry Stinson with the Rotary Club of Chilliwack stand atop the viewing tower during the grand opening of the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve and Rotary Interpretive Centre on Wednesday, May 15, 2002. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

It was May 15, 2002 when the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve and the Rotary Interpretive Centre officially opened.

“Welcome to the public opening of this wonderful reserve,” said then-mayor Clint Hames, as a heron flew high overhead. “I think this will become one of the most-visited places in the Lower Mainland.”

Since May 2002, a total of 353,300 people have come through the doors of the interpretive centre.

Larry Stinson with the Rotary Club of Chilliwack was also at the grand opening 20 years ago and is expected to be at the anniversary celebration on June 23.

“It gives me great pleasure to complete Rotary’s gift to this nature reserve by presenting the Rotary Viewing Tower, which will allow viewing without causing any disturbance,” Stinson said in 2002.

Back then, about 90 to 100 heron nests were nestled high in the trees. Today, staff and volunteers have counted about 60 nest, but there’s likely more, Coray said.

Each active nest has two adult herons and about three to five eggs. There’s about a 60 per cent mortality rate for the chicks, which means about one to two chicks per nest will survive.

“The babies are very loud even though you can’t see them,” Coray said. “You can just hear them chittering non-stop. They’re definitely being territorial.”

Back in 2002, herons were blue-listed meaning it’s a species of “special concern.” Coray said that hasn’t changed over the past 20 years as the birds are still blue-listed.

A heron brings a twig back to its nest at the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve in Chilliwack on March 18, 2015. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

A heron brings a twig back to its nest at the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve in Chilliwack on March 18, 2015. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

The interpretive centre will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on June 23 and all proceeds from the gift shop that day will be put toward the creation of a 24-by-36-foot education pavilion/covered picnic area that will hopefully be built at the reserve in the next couple of years.

Once built, the pavilion will be surround with lots of interpretive signage that will cover the history and ecology of the area, including information on Indigenous communities.

The 20th anniversary of the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve and Rotary Interpretive Centre is Thursday, June 23 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 5200 Sumas Prairie Rd. For more, go to chilliwackblueheron.com. Folks are asked to sign up for the free guided nature walks, though there will be some drop-ins allowed on the day of. Registration is at chilliwackblueheron.com/upcoming-events.

– with files by Jennifer Feinberg

The grand opening of the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve and Rotary Interpretive Centre on Wednesday, May 15, 2002. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

The grand opening of the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve and Rotary Interpretive Centre on Wednesday, May 15, 2002. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

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