Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre gets $6M boost

The Manitoba government and Interlake Community Foundation are creating a $6-million endowment fund for the Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre.

Endowment fund will ensure long-term, stable funding for wetland and nature education site: Ducks Unlimited

The Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre, in the background, is obscured by flocks of migratory birds. (Submitted by Oak Hammock Marsh)

A migratory bird hot spot and popular wetland education site north of Winnipeg is getting a funding boost.

The Manitoba government and Interlake Community Foundation are creating a $6-million endowment fund for the Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre. The $6 million is a government contribution, a provincial spokesperson said.

Provincial officials said the government contribution will generate $270,000 annually for the centre, a 20 per cent increase over the government operating grant currently in place. 

"This investment by the province will allow us to leverage the best in conservation science and education," Karla Guyn, CEO of Ducks Unlimited Canada, said in a statement on Thursday.

"It provides the financial stability needed to ensure our award-winning facility can continue providing Manitobans and visitors from around the world with hands-on opportunities to learn about wetlands and the critical role they play in building a sustainable future."

The conversion of wetlands to farmland has led to more than 100,000 hectares of wetland loss in southern Manitoba in the past 30 years, Ducks Unlimited Canada officials say. About 70 per cent of wetlands in the southwest have disappeared, and 90 per cent in the Red River Valley are gone.

The endowment fund is meant to ensure the Oak Hammock interpretive centre has permanent, stable funding. The endowment replaces a $225,000-per-year commitment to the centre the province announced in spring 2019.

As part of the endowment announcement, Ducks Unlimited, which is headquartered at Oak Hammock and co-manages the site with the province, will rename the centre the Harry J. Enns Wetland Discovery Centre.

Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre is about 30 kilometres north of Winnipeg. (Google Maps)

Enns, a member of the legislative assembly for Lakeside from 1966-2003, supported the creation of Oak Hammock over three decades ago.

"Our dad understood the benefits of this project both for Ducks Unlimited Canada, which he admired as a first-class organization, and to the thousands of Manitobans who would be able to visit the interpretive centre to experience first-hand the wonders and importance of a living wetland," Andrew Enns, son of Harry J. Enns, said in a statement.

The 36-square-kilometre restored prairie marsh draws hundreds of thousands of waterfowl and other species through each migration season and is home to many breeding birds during the summer.

Oak Hammock, located just east of Stonewall, also holds one of Manitoba's final remaining patches of tall grass prairie, 30 kilometres of trails through the wetland, a theatre and more.

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