Wildlife broadcaster Simon King has paid tribute to the founder of Gibraltar Point nature reserve at the official opening of its new visitor centre.
In honouring the vision of Ted Smith when he set out to establish the Lincolnshire Naturalists Trust and Gibraltar Point as a nature reserve, Mr King said: “What we do in life echoes in eternity.”
Mr Smith died last year before the new centre was built but at the ceremony on Friday it was recognised as a gateway to one of the country’s most important nature reserves.
The new £1m building replaces the former visitor centre, which suffered extensive flood damage during the storm surge in December 2013. It is raised on stilts to protect it from any future flooding and glass-fronted to make the most of the spectacular views across the marsh.
Since its “soft opening” in May, it has already welcomed 50,000 people.
Mr King said: “I have been to Gibraltar Point before as I have a soft spot for coastal nature reserves. There is a sense of space and sky along with the drama of landscape.
“The new centre is a beautiful design without being intrusive. You are drawn to look out at the magnificent views.
“People will fall in love with the world about them. This is Ted’s legacy – to bring people back to connect with the real world.”
Among the guests at the official opening were Mr Smith’s daughters Alison and Helen. Alison said: “I can remember coming here with dad as a child. I feel very emotional about being here. It’s just so sad he died a year too soon to see it.”
Coun Colin Davie, Lincolnshire County Council’s executive member for economic development, said: “The new visitor centre is very impressive and will give people the chance to enjoy Gibraltar Point like never before.
“This is just one of a series of investments on the coast, which we’re confident will help attract new visitors to the area.
“Combined with the new outdoor theatre space and North Sea Observatory at Chapel St Leonards, this improved attraction will help extend the traditional tourist season on the coast, providing a significant boost to the local economy.”
David Robinson, president of Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, said: “Ted had seen the establishment of the Gibraltar Point nature reserve in 1948 with the cooperation and support of Lindsey County Council. With this continued support of Lincolnshire County Council we now have a new visitor centre. Ted lived long enough to see the plans. To mark the occasion we are renewing the dedication of Gibraltar Point Nature Reserve to Ted.”