Visitor centres

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 café, retail opportunities, and of course CEPA activities. Each will be designed according to local needs and limitations, and will depend upon funding not only for construction but also for the operation of the centre.

Key resources

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 design, sustainable buildings, creating interpretation, running CEPA programmes and much more.

WLI visitor centre manual

For many people, even the concept of a wetland centre is a strange one. The term may be less familiar than ‘nature reserve’, ‘national park’, ‘botanic garden’, ‘museum’ and ‘zoo’. They invoke distinct images. But what is a wetland centre and what does it do?

That is the question this manual aims to answer.  It also 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.

Download ‘How to develop a visitor centre’ in your preferred language:

Other resources

Visitor segmentation booklet

WWT’s visitor segmentation booklet shows how you can identify your visitor’s needs by interest group.

Making-a-splash leaflet

Please check our making-a-splash leaflet, showing how different approaches work for wetland centres.

STEP estuary education

European funded STEP project explores how wetland centres at estuary sites can deliver wetland education and sustainability

ASWM boardwalks & trails

For practical advice and guidance on boardwalks and trails, see the Association of State Wetland Managers’ brochure

Community engagement

23-page guide to engaging communities with local wetlands. From the Education and Public Action Group of the Wetland Education Network (WEN) in Alberta, Canada, with the Alberta North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

Give a great talk

Talks hints and tips, how to prepare for giving a good talk, from WLI

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