BoFEx looking for funding partners

Jonathan
Jonathan Riley
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An architect’s conceptual drawing of what the Bay of Fundy Experience Centre could look like.

Proponents of a marine experience centre in Digby will have to find another way to raise money.

The committee behind the Bay of Fundy Experience Centre (BoFEx) launched a crowdfunding campaign on February 1.

Using Indiegogo, a online donation site, they were hoping supporters would pledge $150,000 for marketing, film production and to attract additional support.

[BoFEX wants your help: Digby marine centre to try crowdfunding, Jan. 9, 2014]

When the campaign wrapped on March 23, they had $1,700 in pledges.

Dean Kenley, chair of the BoFEx committee, said that is a reflection of difficult economic times.

“It just shows how really difficult the times are,” he said. “Money is tight.”

Kenley wonders too if maybe some people locally think the project is too big for Digby.

“I think they see it as a very large project and they think it might need to be scaled down,” he said. “The way I see it, we deserve it—no one else can do with the Bay of Fundy what we do with it right here. That’s what the centre is about—our unique position and our culture and industry that has grown up around the Bay of Fundy.”

Kenley says the committee will continue to look for funding partners.

“We have great support at the Department of Tourism and Economic Development,” he said. “They can’t do it alone but I’m confident if we could find some other funding partners, the province would be there; they’d find a way to find some money for this.”

He says the town and the municipality have also both been supportive.

The town is still working on property considerations along the Digby waterfront. A consultant chose a plot of land at the southern end of Admirals Walk, near where the visitor information centre now stands, as the ideal spot for a marine experience centre.

The town is looking at who exactly owns what in that area and the costs involved in moving or building around a sewage lift station there.

Kenley says ideally a corporate sponsor, say a tidal energy company, will step forward to support the project.

He continues to promote the project at meetings around the province and he is on the look out for funding partners.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” said Kenley. “We dealing with a megaproject—they take time. But I’m not giving up.”

The idea behind BoFEx is to build a world-class marine experience centre to highlight the Bay of Fundy—a feasibility study, released by the committee last March, put the price tag between $9 million and $16.7 million dollars, depending on final plans.

[Digby marine experience centre moving forward, March 11, 2013]

The consultant’s report suggests a 16,000 sq. foot facility could house visitor experience galleries, live animal displays and touch tanks. The displays would focus on four main themes: tidal landscape, tidal innovation, marine ecology and tidal living.

The centre would also include space for education, research and industry partnerships.

jriley@digbycourier.ca

Organizations: BoFEx committee, Department of Tourism and Economic Development

Geographic location: Bay of Fundy, Admirals Walk

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  • Stefan Giesen
    April 07, 2014 - 21:37

    Honestly, I am not too surprised that the Indigogo campaign wasn't a success at all - the proposed building looks much too futuristic for a town which relies on tourism and "fisher town" charm. IMHO that one would fit into Digby like a square peg in a round hole... Don't get me wrong, I totally support the idea of getting something like a BoFEx - but it should fit the look of the town and not stand out as something totally unnatural and much too "modern" for the surrounding. Not many tourist come to a rural area to see even more "bleeding edge" architecture - quite the opposite is true, people on vacation often want to get away from everything "modern" and back to "the good old days", because it means "fast paced" and as such the opposite of recreation. It shold be modern on the inside, but look nice from the outside and should fit into the town picture. Just to give you an example of what is possible: The small rural village back in Germany where I am from basically had just a few meagre resources about 30 years ago: a) some forests, b) some small farms, c) some half-buried Roman and Celtic ruins (basically only the foundation walls of those) and d) some old industrial buildings from the 19th century (a former lime kiln). And they had a big problem: There was no money to make in small farms anymore (and since it is a hilly area there was no space for bigger ones), the forest industry was "limping" as well and tourists were going everywhere else besides to Nettersheim. So they did some thinking and finally came up with a good concept, which was built on: a) a nature protection centre, b) a forestry industry competence centre to bundle all efforts from the whole area to promote wood as a main building material again (and putting emphasis on sustainability in doing so) and c) start a new tourism industry coupled with both of them. To get these projects started, they needed a building which would provide the needed space for all those activities and which could house some exhibitions as well. So they build this: http://www.nettersheim.de/typo3temp/_processed_/csm_HKZ_01_ab9596225a.jpg This building hosts a permanent exhibition about living in the 18th and 19th century in the area (in an old house which was connected to the complex, complete with its barn and everything, so you didn't even have to step outside to get there), a permanent exhibition about the Romans and Celts in the area, a permanent exhibition about fossils found in that area (and a sea water aquarium to show how the area looked some ten thousand years ago and where these fossils came from), a shop selling local art and craft objects as well as local books, an information centre, one big hall for events, an area showing a few models of different wooden building types (yep, they even show some examples how Canadian wood houses are built) and of course some public washrooms as well (and probably some other things I already forgot about). Beside the building, they started a rural farmer's garden and in the small brook beside it they build an embankment to be able to show of some of the local fish and brook life in it. And of course they started advertising that they had all that and made sure that it was easy to find everything in the area because of good signage. It took them less than 5 years to be well known in the whole state of North Rhine-Westphalia and about another 5 years to be well known all over Germany because of this centre for nature and forestry and all the exhibitions and courses they offer *on a nearly daily basis* (Just have a look at their schedule - and it's still low season: http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=de&sl=de&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nettersheim.de%2Fno_cache%2Fhome%2Fveranstaltungen.html). The fact that they consequently extended the hiking paths, added a forest ropes course (like the Ontree park in Windsor - only about 15 years earlier) and started even guided hiking tours with a forest warden (some of them at night) did of course help a little bit as well... Some fun facts: Because of these ventures, Nettersheim was for a long time (over years) one of the less than ten cash-flow positive communities in whole Germany and continued to work with this: the whole village centre became a new road surface (modern cobble-stone, including the sideways), they built a new library (which now includes a book shop as well), renovated (with the help and advice of the wood competence centre of course) some of the old houses the municipality owned in Nettersheim and then converted them to even more public service buildings. They transformed the old school building into a modern hostel (but still with the old look on the outside) and this hostel is close to fully booked year time round nowadays. Even when the crisis came a few years ago, even though in debt, Nettersheim was still in a better position than most of the other municipalities (and, as far as I understood from my parents, is already recovering quite nicely the last years). *THIS* is how you get tourists and how you get money, but it needs a lot of work, some clever ideas and advertisements. If you want to get more tourists here, give them something to look at, to do and to have fun with. Have a look at what is already readily available here and what might people get interested in coming here (and not to Halifax, Cuba or even the Bahamas). Both the Scallop Days and the Wharf Rat Rally are a great start already (and should be totally supported by everybody), but why stop there? Make it easy for people to find any attraction and spend money there - e.g. put up more and bigger signage in a unified way to easy navigation - even inside city limits (I really had a hard time finding some of the things my travel guide mentioned when I first came into the area a few years ago - simple because some signs where either to small, only readable from one direction or even some of them totally overgrown). Hell, I am not into seafood at all, but when I was visiting Scotland as a tourist some years ago, even I participated in a 3 hour fishing tour with a (really) small shell fisher boat, just because I wanted to know how it works (don't ask me what type of shells he was going for, I can only remember it was at Loch Carron, close to the Inner Sound near the Isle of Skye). Just my 2 cents (OK, maybe that was somewhat more than 2 cents, but still ;-).