Old MARS property sold; proceeds to go towards infrastructure of new location

Fundraising breakfast Friday at downtown Thrifty Foods

  • Aug. 11, 2016 9:00 a.m.

This month's cause is the Mountainiare Avian Rescue Society

Erin Haluschak

Record staff



Moving day is less than one year away for the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society, and the recent sale of its current property provided by its founder will help with the costs of the society’s  new home.

In her will, MARS founder Maj Birch left part of her estate to continue the legacy of the society: to provide a safe, stress-free environment for wildlife to recover and to contribute to the knowledge and understanding of wildlife by participating in research and sharing information.

Birch succumbed to cancer in November, 2015.

For the past 21 years, MARS has been operating its Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre on Birch’s Headquarters Road property, southwest of Merville.

Last February, MARS took possession of a nearly 11-acre piece of property on the Old Island Highway in Merville, at Williams Beach Road.

Proceeds from the sale of the current home will be used to develop and install services on the land and to build a wildlife hospital, says manager Robert McLennan.

“We had an arrangement with Maj to continue our lease until May 2017; it was put into place before she passed. The new owners have agreed to that, and our transfer (to the new location) will happen at minimum by May 2017.”

McLennan adds the society is hoping to have enough funds to build a flight pen and an interpretive education centre.

The sale of the property “absolutely helps” with reaching their fundraising goal, he notes.

Board member and communication team leader for MARS Brian Mitchell says the society is halfway to its fundraising goal of $1.5 million.

The property is paid for, and fundraising is now being targeted to install services, construct the hospital, flight pen and interpretive centre.

Mitchell explains the society is constantly trying to strike a balance to raise funds for the care of wildlife – which he adds comes first – along with raising money for its new home.

“In September we’re putting a major push for supporters, and are accepting cash or material donations. We’re also appealing to any group or organization who would like to get some people together and want to build one of the smaller buildings.”

Currently, the site is being cleared for infrastructure and there is water and fencing in place. Mitchell adds groundbreaking should happen in September, with the hospital being one the buildings with the highest priorities to be built.

“It’s absolutely crucial, it’s so desperately needed. We’ve really outgrown our space; we see 700-plus animals a year.”

The MARS team comprises four regular staff members (one full-time, three part-time) and three student staffers this summer, all with zoology and/or biology background.

Mitchell says the society is currently undergoing a new ‘identity’ – along with a new logo, the society will be known as MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre.

MARS relies on public funding, grants and donations. The Comox Valley Record, Thrifty Foods and Royston Roasting are hosting another Caring for a Cause breakfast in the parking lot of the downtown Thrifty Foods location, Friday morning from 8 to 10 a.m., with all proceeds going to MARS.

For more information or to donate, visit wingtips.org


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