Wetland visitor centres play a crucial role in giving people access to wildlife, and information about conservation.Centres can be defined as ‘a focal point that brings people into contact with wetlands and wildlife’. This concept embraces built centres with thousands of visitors per year, to small structures such as a bird-hide with some infomation panels, to a community group that runs guided tours at a specific wetland site. Visitor centres may also have a range of activities such as fishing and hunting, recreational activities, catering and cafe, retail opportunities, and of course CEPA activities.Each one will be designed according to local needs and limitations, and depend upon funding not only for construction but to run the centre. Have a look at WWT’s visitor segmentation booklet to see how you can identify your visitor’s needs by interest group.
For more advice, please check our making-a-splash leaflet, showing how different approaches work for wetland centres. A recent European funded project, STEP, explores how wetland centres at estuary sites can deliver wetland educationa and sustainability. For practical advice and guidance on boardwalks and trails, see the Association of State Wetland Managers’ brochure. You can also pick up some great ideas for activites at a wetland at Fergus Fall’s page for educators (US).
If you are planning walks and talks here are some documents that you might find useful. Talks hints and tips, how to prepare for giving a good talk; Giving good talks and presentations - what makes a good talk; Props and tools that you can use for your talk; and finall, what to do when things go wrong!
Handbook on Best Practices for the Design and Operation of Wetland Education Centres
WLI worked with the Ramsar Convention and the ERF (Environmental Ecosystem Research Foundation, South Korea) who brought together wetland centre managers from across the world to create a handbook on best practice, based on actual experience. The handbook is aimed at a range of audiences including government agencies, architects, NGOs and other conservation organisations, and will be available in several different languages. In the handbook, you can find out about planning and designing, sustainable buildings, creating interpretation, running CEPA programmes and much more. Click here for more.
WLI visitor centre manual
The concept of a wetland centre is not familiar to many people. We understand the words ‘nature reserve’, ‘national park’, ‘botanic garden’, ‘museum’ and ‘zoo’. They invoke distinct images. But what is a wetland centre and what does it do?
This online manual attempts to answer the question. Further it outlines some of the philosophy, thinking and questions to be considered when developing and running a wetland centre. The emphasis is on CEPA (Communications, Education and Public Awareness) – the ‘people’ aspects of creating and running a wetland centre. You can download our publication ‘How to develop a visitor centre’. The manual is available in the following languages: