Now here’s something we can all agree on.
Just weeks ago, that’s not a sentiment that anybody would associate with the Gates Lake recreation facility proposed for Birken.
But with the pre-Christmas announcement that the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) has purchased a new piece of property that will become the home of the future community space, it appears that local government officials have got it right this time.
OK, perhaps there is something else we can agree about, and that’s the overall need to establish some kind of recreational space for Area C residents in the Poole Creek to D’Arcy corridor. Those folks are already paying a bundle to fund a community centre in Pemberton that’s a 45-minute drive away and need a facility of their own, closer to home.
While we believe that the SLRD had the best of intentions when purchasing the original site — which sits across the road from the new property — failing to consult with constituents in advance eventually caught up with lawmakers by way of a controversy that lasted for the second half of 2012 and exposed problems within the Pemberton-Area C joint recreation service structure.
But this new, three-acre plot of land provides a perfect opportunity for future users of the facility to get exactly what they want out of the project.
Folks unfamiliar with life up Portage Road may not understand the importance of this facility for the region, but those who attended community consultations about the project during the summer— including those who couldn’t fit into the over-capacity meeting — certainly do.
It was residents from the region who made their voices loud and clear that a renovated house wasn’t going to cut it when it came to meeting the area’s need for a public space.
We hope those same people have continued to speak up during the surveying of future facility users so that we’re not having the same arguments about the project down the road.
Close to 500 surveys were mailed out to community members during the fall as part of a recreation study. Although there will be further public consultation before any plans are finalized, the findings of those surveys will be key to deciding on the direction of the facility.
There’s a “fresh slate” up there in Birken, as Area C director Susie Gimse described it last week, that really has no limit on the potential of what can be constructed. What’s even better than the previous piece of property is that this new one has the potential for easier public access to Gates Lake than what currently exists.
To date, the Gates Lake facility has been a prime example of how constituents can have a major impact on government decisions when they make their opinions known.
But the discussion is no longer about what doesn’t work for this area, it’s about what will. With that in mind, we hope that those who were so vocal in their opposition of the now-scrapped project are just as eager to tell local officials what they really want.