April 21 will be an exciting day for Darin McClain and anyone involved with the Bell-Irving Hatchery at Kanaka Creek Regional Park.
McClain, the hatchery manager, has the third Sunday in April circled on his calendar for two reasons: Bell-Irving hosts the Goodbye Chums fry release event and at the same time welcomes the public to the 30year-old hatchery's grand re-opening, following a complete rebuild that started in September.
"We hope to have everything completed," McLain said.
There are some tanks being fabricated that might not be in place in time for the re-opening.
"That's not going to impact the hatchery at all this spring," McClain said. "That's just a minor detail.
Most importantly, the building's going to be open."
"The scope of this project is very far reaching," McClain added. "What we've found in the last few years, especially with the opening of the new [Golden Ears] bridge, is that we've had people from all over the region coming in to visit us. That's what makes the stewardship centre so important."
The old building was far past its expiration date and needed to be demolished to make way for a new structure.
"It was dilapidated and started to have mould problems and different things and had to be torn down," McClain said.
The rebuilt Bell-Irving Hatchery, in conjunction with the future Kanaka Creek Watershed Stewardship Centre that has a 2015 target completion date, will encompass one facility.
This will allow for continued salmon production and watershed/ environmental based education.
The stewardship centre will incorporate a classroom and offices for Metro Vancouver Parks interpreters and KEEPS (Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society).
McClain describes the hatchery as "the centre-point" for salmon and watershed education in the area.
"The most important thing with having a stewardship centre, we can have workshops, community events, meetings. you name it take place in that facility, and literally welcome everyone, not only Metro Vancouverites, but the world, essentially," McClain said.
The project is supported by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Metro Vancouver Parks, Pacific Parklands Foundation, the District of Maple Ridge, and the Pacific Salmon Foundation.
"Without the Pacific Salmon Foundation's help in past years as well as now and in the future - they've made a tremendous contribution to this and many other projects throughout the Lower Mainland and B.C.," McClain said.
The hatchery portion of the project is slated to cost just under $300,000. As a whole, the project, including the stewardship centre, has a roughly $1 million price tag.
"This has been a vision of KEEPS' for 12 years, along with Metro Vancouver Parks," McClain said.
"The culmination of this is incredibly important. It makes me proud to be part of this because you see all the hard work that goes on that most people are not even aware of. Much of that is volunteer work."
The hatchery on 256th Street is operated by KEEPS in partnership with Metro Vancouver and the DFO.
On any given year, 150,000 coho and 200,000 chum are raised at the hatchery.
In odd years, as many as 400,000 pink eggs are brought to the site to incubate and are released downstream of Cliff Falls.
The fish that are released are done in such a way that it sustains the stocks and provides marked coho for retention in the sport fishery.
The hatchery also serves as an ecological outdoor classroom for students attending local schools and beyond.
"We provides eggs for programs in schools throughout the north side of the Fraser and all the way into Vancouver," McClain said. "On any given year, as many as 30 to 40 schools will receive our eggs."
Students raise the eggs right through to hatching and will feed the fish once they emerge.
The hatchery is also a satellite facility.
A number of the fish raised there go to many different watersheds north of the Fraser, including Stoney Creek, the Brunette River System, Byrne Creek, and Spanish Banks Creek.
The stewardship centre project could get a financial boost to the tune of $100,000, with the public's help, through the Shell - Fueling Change contest.
To get involved, make a purchase at a Shell store, redeem receipt codes for votes, find the project online, and vote for the project.
Among the projects, the stewardship centre ranks second in vote getters, with 182,508 at press time.
Visit http: //fuellingchange.com.