The campaign to develop the new Discovery Centre at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve reached a key phase this week as it officially launched to the public.
More than £2.5 million has already been secured for the project from private, trust and European funding sources, with further fundraising bids in the pipeline.
But those behind the campaign are now appealing to the community to help raise a further £500,000.
With dedicated space for education, learning, and enjoyment, the new Centre will provide Rye Harbour Nature Reserve with a facility to match its national and international importance for wildlife and migrating birds. For years, it has struggled with a single, small information room, which was even submerged in the 2013 floods at the Reserve.
Launching the public fundraising campaign at a special event at Fairlight Hall, Sussex Wildlife Trust chairman Carole Nicholson said: “The Discovery Centre is very much a people’s project.
“It was inspired by local people asking for it to be built.
“It has been designed with local people very much in mind. And we’re now asking local people to support our work and contribute towards our fundraising for it.
“I want there to be a real sense of local involvement and pride in the project.”
Her views were echoed at the launch by Graham Peters, chairman of Team East Sussex, part of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership.
He said: “Working with ESCC, we are delighted to have supported a grant of £900,000 from our pot of European funding. Projects like the Discovery Centre at Rye Harbour are hugely important – for jobs, for skills, and to put East Sussex and Kent firmly on the map for its stunning scenery and amazing wildlife.”
The launch of the public appeal is a major step towards the campaign reaching its £4 million target, according to Appeal Board chairman Alastair Fairley: “We may be two-thirds of the way towards reaching our goal, but we can’t build the Discovery Centre without the public’s help.
“When people visit the reserve we want them to feel they’re part of its future – of engaging young people in nature, to look after our planet, and inspire the next generation to treasure this special part of the world. I hope people will rally to that cause and donate, raise funds, and support our campaign to create something our region can rightly be proud of.”
Anyone wanting to donate to the fundraising campaign can do so by visiting https://sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/rhdcdonate. You can also subscribe to a regular newsletter about the campaign to keep you up to date with news and events at https://sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/rhdcenews.