“Exceeding expectations,” are the words from BC Hydro’s Stephen Watson on the community and tourism response to the John Hart Project Interpretive Centre near Elk Falls.
BC Hydro says that in almost three years since it opened, the interpretive centre has had over 37,000 visitors.
If you’re wondering what’s happening with the John Hart project and all the massive underground work, there’s no better place to find out than the interpretive centre.
It has descriptive wall panels that show the construction of the original above-ground facility in the 1940s, how it’s operated today, and all the design and construction updates in putting the facility underground.
There’s also information about BC Hydro’s provincial system and how it works.
“We get people who have lived locally for many years who come into the interpretive centre for the first time and have no idea about the massive nature of the project and what it’s all about,” says Watson. “They learn about why we are doing it and how everything is going underground. It’s the dimension of things from the underground powerhouse that’s as long as an NFL football field, to the tunnels with some of them over eight metres in diameter, that quite surprise them.”
Watson says there are also people that come out regularly to view the monthly construction reports that show lots of pictures and project advancements, or to see the semi-annually produced construction videos on the touchscreen TV.
He also says tourists from around the world are amazed at the beauty of the area, and can get quite engaged when learning about the project and comparing it to a situation or facility where they live.
BC Hydro established a partnership with the Museum at Campbell River on the staffing at the centre and in bringing elements of the museum into the centre for a value added experience for visitors.
In addition, BC Hydro is entering another partnership year with School District 72 in covering the bus transport costs and some class materials so teachers and students can learn about the Campbell River hydroelectric system, the project, the electricity grid, and the environment.
“Having such a unique project literally in your backyard is a great opportunity and from a career planning perspective, who knows, hopefully one day some of those students will be working on a future project on the Campbell River system,” says Watson, who tries to meet all the classes that go to the site.
The interpretive centre was open five days a week over the summer, and in September, has shifted to being open on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday through to spring next year. Parking and admission is free.