Volunteer labourers continue toiling, despite some cool temperatures this winter, to bring an environmental interpretive centre to fruition on the grounds of the Derek Doubleday Arboretum in Langley by summer.
Well, that dream came a step closer to reality recently, when the project reached a “major milestone” with the installation of $20,000 worth of donated windows at the log structure that overlooks the Fraser Highway and Nicomekl River, said David Truman.
The half-million-dollar project is a joint venture between the Township of Langley and the Rotary Club of Langley. Construction started last summer and is scheduled for completion this summer.
Truman is one of the project leaders and treasurer of both the arboretum and botanical society, as well as the Rotary Club of Langley.
But his buy-in on this project goes much deeper than hoisting a shovel and swinging a hammer on the job site.
In fact, the project was originally conceived by Truman and his wife seven years ago, when they toured the Sunshine Coast and visited the Iris Griffith interpretive centre just west of Sechelt.
“It was a beautiful log home design and after visiting it, we knew that would be exactly what we needed for the arboretum,” he said.
They came home and with some persuasion and a subsequent delegation tour of the Iris Griffith facility, got the arboretum society and Township on side.
“We convinced the Township that was a doable design,” then the chore began to find the money, Truman recalled.
Admittedly, it took a couple of years to get the funding in place. But with a $500,000 price tag on the building alone, the Township committed to covering half the cost and Truman’s fellow Rotarians committed to the other half.
“This is our gift to the people of Langley, celebrating 60 years of Rotary in Langley,” Truman elaborated.
The club – the first of four now operating in Langley – was chartered on Dec. 30, 1958. This became his club’s anniversary project.
And thanks to endless volunteer hours donated by various trades people, and many severe discounts on supplies, he’s optimistic the building will still come in on or under budget and on time.
“We’re still getting offers of volunteer work and depending on how much more work can be done by volunteers, as opposed to paid contractors, will probably say whether we get in under the $500,000 that we wanted the building for,” he said.
But all that said, he divulged some overruns on the budget – specifically related to site services – that were never anticipated.
He predicts the finished product could be a few hundred thousand over budget because of unforeseen costs associated with planting a septic tank on the site and bringing water and electricity across from the south side of the Fraser Highway.
“It will probably go over budget when you count the cost of the water supply line that we have to put in for the sprinkler system. That alone will cost $100,000 that we did not expect,” Truman said.
Despite these hurdles, he said the project is “moving ahead on all fronts.”
With the windows in place, now the electrical, plumbing, and heating contractors are finishing up their work. The sprinklers system is expected to be installed soon.
And Truman said a professional project manager is being hired to work with the team for the next few months a number of bigger jobs that can’t be handled by the volunteers, including the installation of exterior siding.
The arboretum was the brainchild of fellow Langley Rotarian Les Clay, and was established in 2009 as a 38-acre park and demonstration garden filled with trees, various gardens, gravel paths, a war memorial, and now – nearing completion – the interpretive centre.
The park bears the name of Derek Doubleday, a Township employee who served almost every role a person can serve at municipal hall.
The interpretive centre, yet to officially be named, will incorporate a number of offices on the top floor, environmental displays and educational space on the main floor, and a meeting room available for rental.
It is expected to be used for frequent school tours and to unite local conservation efforts. Langley Environmental Partners Society will also run its programs out of the centre, and it’s Truman’s hope that other groups – such as the salmon enhancement organizations and the field naturalists – will see the facilities as a hub for environmental stewardship efforts in this community. It’s a natural fit with the arboretum and all that it stands for.