Jeanne S. Simpson Field Studies Resource Centre

The Jeanne S. Simpson Field Studies Resource Centre is located in Lake Cowichan on Marble Bay (Lot 39). The centre is used primarily for university purposes as a base for field studies and resource management. It is available on a shared use basis to all university departments requiring the use of the facilities as part of their program and to non-university groups whose purpose is consistent with the general purposes of the centre.

Jeanne S. Simpson Field Studies Resource Centre
Jeanne S. Simpson Field Studies Resource Centre

Background

The university acquired the property through a generous donation from Mrs. Jeanne Simpson in 1967. In 1974, the property was designated by the University of Victoria as a field research centre. Today, the 25 acre property consists of a laboratory, sleeping and cooking facility and 20 acres of undisturbed virgin forest.

The laboratory was designed, constructed and donated to the University of Victoria by Crown Zellerbach Ltd. The original furnishings and equipment were provided by the Leon and Thea Koerner Foundation. The lab is used by various university departments for studies in Biology, Geography, Science Education and Physical Education. It forms a base for an outdoor classroom extending to other places of interest in the Cowichan Lake area.

Approximately 20 acres of the property remain in a state of undisturbed virgin forest with no significant rock outcropping. Deer and other animals are left free to roam in the natural beauty of a park-like setting. Year-round caretakers welcome guests interested in enjoying and studying the pristine surroundings. Visits must be pre-arranged by contacting 250-721-8128 ().

Jeanne S. Simpson Field Studies Resource Centre
Jeanne S. Simpson Field Studies Centre

Property and facility description

Property: Native vegetation includes douglas fir, western hemlock, balsam fir, western red cedar and coastal pine. Other trees found on site include arbutus, cascara, aspen, poplar, maple, alder, dogwood and willow; shrubs such as salal, huckleberry, ocean spray, elderberry, and sweet gale; and plants such as erythronium lily, false lady slipper, skunk cabbage, vanilla leaf, ferns, oregon grape, yellow violet, miner's lettuce and indian pipe.

Native mammals include the black-tailed deer, raccoon, otter, red squirrel, muskrat, beaver, shrew, bat, cougar, wolf and black bear.

Native birds include the great blue heron, green heron, bald eagle, varied thrush, steller's jay, common loon, merganser, goatsucker, sapsucker, pileated woodpecker, tank-tailed pigeon, belted kingfisher, grouse, Canada goose, white swan and hummingbird.

Facilities:  Kitchen facilities are provided and include electric range, electric refrigerator, two sinks, utensils, dishes, cutlery, plastic bags for garbage and most basic equipment for a maximum group of 18 people. Boiling of the drinking water is required during the heavy rain seasons as the water comes directly from the lake.

Sleeping areas include 3 six-person tents and a loft in the lab. Foam mattresses are provided.  If a power failure occurs, Coleman lamps, stoves and heaters are available.  A telephone extension from the caretaker's residence may be used for local calls only.

Users must supply their own food, dish soap, hand towels and sleeping bags. Food and gas is available in the village of Lake Cowichan approximately 6.5 km (4 miles) away.

There are no boats available on the premises.

Jeanne S. Simpson field Studies Resource Centre
Jeanne S. Simpson Field Studies Resource Centre

Management and use of facility

The vice-president finance and operations is responsible for the facility's general management.

The operation and maintenance of the centre is the responsibility of the university's facilities management department. A full-time caretaker resides on the property and is responsible for the day-to-day maintenance and operations of the centre.

University affiliated groups: The centre is available for $50.00 per day or night use on a shared-use basis to all university academic departments wishing to use the facilities as part of a university program. Non-academic university bookings are available for $100.00 per day or night use. Bookings for the facility are on a first-come-first-served basis. To book, call 250-721-8128 ().

Non-university groups: Groups not affiliated with the university may use the facility for $50.00 per day only. No overnight stays are permitted. The property is only available to non-university users when it is not required by university departments and provided such use is consistent with the general purposes for which the centre has been established. Non-university bookings can be bumped with 30 days notice for university academic priorities.

Non-permitted use: The property shall not be used as a camp site or tenting area. Tenting and/or camping, when permitted, shall be within the existing tent structures currently in place. Maximum number of participants is 18.

Jeanne S. Simpson Field Studies Resource Centre
Jeanne S. Simpson Field Studies Resource Centre

General visitors' guidelines

To preserve as much as possible the environmental values of the property, it is requested that visitors not disturb the forest. "Minimum impact" is the rule.

  1. Domestic animals are not permitted for reasons of wildlife protection.
  2. Campfires are to be confined to established fire pits when not banned.
  3. Since waste water empties into a septic field, please do not flush bulky or inorganic wastes down drains (examples: grease, facial tissues, cotton fibres, paper towels). The sinks and toilets are not built for lab chemicals.
  4. To discourage rodents and insects from invading the living quarters, please take your garbage with you. The Cowichan District incinerator is open Monday to Saturday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (map on site).
  5. The library books are property of the centre. The premises must be left in at least as good a condition as found in.
  6. Please shut off the electric range and water heater at the breaker panel before departing.
  7. In consideration of the caretakers, please, no noise after 11:00 pm.
  8. Please report breakage or problems requiring maintenance to the caretaker.
  9. Parking is very limited. It is recommended that groups not bring more than 6 vehicles.

Please respect the caretaker's privacy and do not disturb their home, outbuildings or garden areas.

Jeanne S. Simpson Field Studies Resource Centre
Jeanne S. Simpson Field Studies Resource Centre

History of the property

In January 1893, Dr. Richard Nugent Stoker received title to Lot 29, originally part of a land grant to the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway (1887). Lot 29 consisted of 25 acres with 3000 feet of waterfront on Lake Cowichan. Following his retirement from the Indian Army as a medical doctor in 1900, Dr. Stoker and his wife Susan arrived in Cowichan. Their residence, a log house, was completed about 1903.

Mrs. Stoker was both an artist and a naturalist. While in India she created many paintings of plants and insects. She later achieved a reputation as an authority on British Columbia wild flowers and transferred many plants to their private garden, which became widely known.

In 1912 Mr. and Mrs. George Buchanan Simpson arrived in the Cowichan Lake area from England. Sharing similar interests with Dr. and Mrs. Stoker, they were instrumental in the development of more extensive gardens.  Many species of rhododendrons were imported from Asia and seeds were collected through sources in London.  In 1924, the Simpsons purchased Parcel "A" of Lot 29 and expanded the growth of rhododendrons to sell commercially through Greig's Nursery at Royston, BC.

In 1927 ownership of the property transferred to Mr. and Mrs. Simpson. They began a very extensive project to develop the gardens of the Stoker Estate for their own enjoyment. The property boasted 350 kinds of plants and nearly 200 varieties of rhododendrons.

Mr. Simpson died in 1958, leaving Mrs. Simpson alone to care for the property. As she grew older the task became more difficult. In 1967, Mrs. Simpson transferred title of the property to the university with the provision that she be entitled to quiet enjoyment of the property, which she continued to care for until she passed away on June 27, 1973 at the age of 87.

Since 1973, most of the rhododendrons and azaleas have been successfully relocated to the University of Victoria Finnerty Gardens and form the core of the extensive collection.

Jeanne S. Simpson Field Studies Resource Centre
View from Jeanne S. Simpson Field Studies Resource Centre