The New MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre
Building underway, crucial completion funds needed
In May, MARS took an historic first step towards recognizing the dream of founder Mary Jane “Maj” Birch to provide a multi-purpose wildlife rescue centre for the Comox Valley. Construction of the new wildlife hospital began late last year, continued through abnormal winter snowfalls and will open its doors to its first needy patients in early spring. The wildlife hospital is the all-important part of an ambitious plan that moved the facility from its previous location on Headquarters Road to a new eleven-acre $1.5 million facility in nearby Merville, British Columbia.
It’s an amazing time to be at MARS, the excitement is palpable and we would love for you to be part of our bold new adventure. Over the next three years, we’re anticipating enormous growth as more and more visitors make the MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre an indispensable part of their trip to the Comox Valley. Our visitor/discovery centre, scenic trails, ambassador bird aviaries, large bird flight pen, wetland viewing areas and deer enclosure will help us attract as many as 20,000 local and international guests each year. These visitors and the revenues they generate will give MARS the stable long-term funding we need to care for the injured, ill and orphaned birds and animals of northern Vancouver Island.
The work is underway with much more to come, but with the continued support of the local community and our many donors and supporters, we will deliver an immersive once-in-a-lifetime Pacific west coast experience visitors will never forget.
So where are we at?
So far we’ve raised just under $1 million of the $1.5 million we need to finish the wildlife centre. So we’re close. Most of this money has come through federal and provincial government grants and several extremely generous bequests and endowments from donors such as MARS founder Mary Jane Birch and her family friend Michele Woodrow. We’ve also been lucky to have had the support of local companies, businesses and individuals who have provided the time, money, expertise and materials to help us out. So we can confidently say we are moving forward, edging closer to our goal every day but nonetheless there are various needs still outstanding. For instance, we still need to finance and build the visitor/discovery centre, the large bird flight pen, a home for our ambassador birds and recovery aviaries and pens for our patients. All of the above are important, but the visitor/discovery centre is currently the most pressing.
In September last year, MARS received a $236,600 grant from the Island Coastal Economic Trust to help offset costs associated with the visitor centre. But it has been a challenge finding an architect, a suitable design and a builder to correspond with our timelines. In recent weeks we may have made some progress on that front, but it’s still far from completed.
The visitor/discovery centre is vitally important and will mark a big change in the way MARS operates as it will be the first time we invite the public to come and visit us. The animal hospital is off-limits to the general public and so the visitor/discovery centre will be our main point of contact with visitors and the heart of our teaching mission.
As the name implies, the MARS visitor/discovery centre will be an education hub, an interactive teaching space where visitors – particularly children and educators — can learn about the wildlife and wild habitat of the Comox Valley.
So what can you do?
You can help us get across the goal line. There are a lot of different ways you can support MARS, many of these are outlined on our DONATE PAGE.
No amount of help is too little, every ounce of support is appreciated. As a non-profit, virtually every dollar we receive goes towards the welfare and well-being of our patients. Perhaps you have a unique skill, a contact, access to materials or a fundraising strategy we simply haven’t thought about. If you do you can contact us at (250) 337-2021
Otherwise, please accept this introduction to the new MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre as we work with the local community to build a lasting legacy for the Comox Valley and north island.
Thanks in advance for helping us to help wildlife.