The biological diversity that the wetlands bring may soon be more accessible to the people of Kamloops.
Work is underway to construct a viewing platform — or multiple viewing platforms — at the Tranquille wetlands, located at the head of Kamloops Lake, about five kilometres west of the city.
The initiative is a renewed one, under the charge of naturalist club member Jesse Ritcey, who is building on the 30-year-old idea of his grandfather Ralph Ritcey.
The club is currently in the process of getting permits to conduct a piling test at the site that would use screw piles rather than a pile driver. That’s just one step that must be done to make the viewing platform a reality. Other hurdles include permits from various government ministries at both the provincial and federal level, a cultural assessment by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and environmental assessments.
Club president Nancy Flood, who is also a biological sciences professor at Thompson Rivers University, said the actual design for the platform remains up in the air, but that some of the ideas for the platform include making it wheelchair-accessible, having it elevated above the flood water line and having multiple viewing platforms connected by boardwalk.
“We’ve been working on it, more or less, actively for the past six years,” she said.
Flood says she envisions school children coming to the site to learn about an area that is particularly biodiverse, especially with birds, including sandhill cranes, warblers, waxwings, Cooper’s hawks, peregrine falcons, herons and “lots of very cool ducks,” Flood said.
“They’ll just get turned on to it by seeing things close up in a way they hadn’t seen them before,” she said, noting she also brings her ornithology class to the area in May each year.
Flood said there will also be a component of the site to bring attention to the First Nations historical and cultural significance of the site, and that the club has been working with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc along the way.
“We’ve already produced a lot of materials that describe what Secwépemc people would have been doing in this area, so that’s part of it. In addition to the biodiversity, the history is pretty cool,” she said.
The site is somewhat unique for Kamloops, given the typically arid landscape near the city. Flood said while other nature parks in the city are valuable, they are typically dry and forested.
Tourism is another factor in the construction of the site. Flood said that with the number of birdwatchers on the upswing — especially during the pandemic — some people will be drawn to the city for the opportunity for rare viewings.