Wildlife Center: ‘We’re not exactly all that touristy’
Story by Chris Graham
If you’d ask a person on the street what the Wildlife Center of Virginia does, “the two things they’re likely to say are take care of hurt animals and put on programs for kids. And while all of that is true, it’s like what you see of an iceberg is the 10 percent that sticks above the water line,” said Ed Clark, the founding president of the Waynesboro-based Wildlife Center.
It’s what’s below the water line that drives the work at the Wildlife Center, world-renowned for its work in wildlife and conservation medicine.
Which is to say, “we’re not exactly all that touristy,” said Clark, responding to a suggestion in a recent editorial in The News Virginian that suggested that the Wildlife Center should consider a move to the new Mill at South River development that is in the genesis stages in Downtown Waynesboro.
On the surface, the move would seem wise. An effort is well under way to locate a project with the working title the Center for Coldwaters Restoration that would include facilities for conservation research and a fish hatchery. Based on what most people think of when they think Wildlife Center of Virginia, that it’s essentially a zoo on steroids, it would seem that there could be synergy between the two centers and other plans in development at the Mill that include building a roster of artisans and crafters on site along with commercial developments.
“We all have very similar goals and motives and priorities, and that’s all great. I have along the way said, Yeah, we’d love to support something like that and participate. And we’ve been approached about doing educational programs there. But that’s probably going to be the extent of it,” Clark said.
Clark wants to emphasize his personal support and the Wildlife Center’s institutional support of the project, which he feels dates back to the effort undertaken by the Wildlife Center in the 1990s to launch the annual Riverfest event that was the granddaddy of commercial conservation efforts in Downtown Waynesboro.
“We like to think that was the start of things,” Clark said, referring to the development later on of the successful Virginia Fly Fishing Festival, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, and the work toward the development of the Center for Coldwaters Restoration that has also come up in recent years.
The bottom line with regard to the Center’s interest in the Mill at South River development: “We would be interested in being able to use space there to put on educational events for the public, and to use it for laboratory facilities. At some point when we start doing more laboratory stuff, there could be some mutual interests there. But again, that’s not really a touristy thing,” Clark said.
“It’s not at all out of the question that the complex and some focus on conservation might be something of which we can take advantage. But people that think that the Wildlife Center is a nature center or a zoo or something of this nature are honestly people that just don’t understand what we do,” Clark said.