Seosan workshop to document best practice for the design and operation of wetland education centres

DSC_3545The workshop on best practices for the design and operation of wetland education centres was held in Cheonsu Bay (Seosan, South Korea), home to tens of thousands of migratory waterbirds along the East Asian -Australasian Flyway, on 4-8 November 2013. Wetland education centres are essential for learning and training about wetlands for coexistence between humans and nature for the benefit of both people and biodiversity.

There has been a growing interest in the development of wetland education centres but in recent years there have been concerns that greater attention has been paid to the construction of the building rather than to the delivery of communications, education, participation and awareness (CEPA) activities. To counter this, a workshop was held to bring together over 100 participants from 15 countries to share their experience and knowledge for those who will be involved in the development of future centres. Participants discussed how to set up a project establishing a centre, ensure the financial sustainability of the centre’s operation, and deliver the best location, sustainable building design, interpretation and programmes. One of the good practices identified was the need to agree with the stakeholders a project masterplan based on considerations such as the objectives of the centres, its location, an assessment of the possible number of visitors and the cost of construction and operation, bearing in mind that the centre would need to be financially self-sustaining. In addition, participants stressed the importance of putting in place a system to collect visitors’ feedback and of ensuring that the interpretation and programmes are flexible enough to allow improvement based on the feedback. The outcomes of their discussion along with case studies will be published in an online handbook in early 2014.

The workshop was kindly hosted by the municipal government of Seosan City, and organized by the Environmental Ecosystem Research Foundation (ERF), the Ramsar Regional Centre – East Asia (RRC-EA) and the Ramsar Secretariat. The Ministry of Environment, Republic of Korea is generously funding the production of the online handbook in English and Korean. It is hoped that additional funds will be made available to translate it into other languages.

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