The Ruby Lake Lagoon Society is within $200,000 of meeting its fundraising goal of $2.4 million to purchase land for the future Pender Harbour Ocean Discovery Station (PODS) – but the group has to raise the funds by the end of this month.
“We’re doing well. Every day we get a bit closer,” said Michael Jackson, executive director of the Lagoon Society.
The proposed site for PODS, a marine and fresh water research and education centre, is the former Irvines Landing Marine property.
Jackson said the end of September deadline is due to the terms of the purchase agreement for the land.
For the past year, the society has been “approaching individuals and philanthropists and just getting the word out in the local community, and we’ve had a remarkable response,” Jackson said.
“The fact that we’re looking at Irvines Landing, which has been derelict for several years, and used to be the central location for the community, with steam ships, a hotel and ship building, all sorts of things – it’s where it all began. There were about 200 people living there and it was a vital place. I think a lot of people want to see this property reinvigorated because it’s steeped in history.”
The property is located at the mouth of the harbour where the water is deep, which is ideal for research, Jackson said. He added that the waterfront location would welcome visitor boating traffic. The soil structure and typography are also factors that make the Irvines Landing property ideal.
Purchasing the land is the first step in making PODS a reality, Jackson said. He said once the land is purchased, the Lagoon Society will be able to access more funding. “Once we get past that hurdle [land purchase], it opens it up to get government and foundation funding.”
The PODS project “got everyone excited and it’s something that everyone can see the value in,” he said.
The facility will boast research labs, underwater galleries, a conference centre, classrooms and a restaurant. Jackson said the facility will attract researchers to study marine and freshwater ecosystems along the Sunshine Coast and into Jervis Inlet. Long-term monitoring programs will help scientists understand the impacts of climate change on the local environment. Recently, the Ruby Lake Lagoon Society partnered with Simon Fraser University; that partnership is expected to benefit the society by providing scientists and researchers.
“This will be about research and education, kids and families, and it’s what we need here,” Jackson said. “It’s a difficult place to be here in the winter and this [facility] will be about reviving winter businesses, accommodation providers and restaurants.”
He said the Lagoon Society anticipates the facility will be a gathering place for the community and that they will host several conferences.
The Lagoon Society is appealing for donations of any size. “Every little drop in the ocean helps,” Jackson said. Donations can be made online at www.openpods.com or cheques can be sent to P.O. Box 8, Madeira Park, V0N 2H0. If the Lagoon Society does not reach its financial goal and the land purchase agreement is void, financial donations will be refunded, Jackson said.
The Lagoon Society is hoping to break ground next July and the centre is proposed to open in July 2020.