Foundation hands out community awards

Pemberton’s Nature Play Park and library among grant recipients

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) is just one of many Sea to Sky organizations celebrating after receiving charitable grants from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation (WBF) last month. The WBF awarded a total of over $250,000 to 18 different community groups and organizations, the foundation announced last week (Nov. 30).

“The foundation is committed to helping organizations that benefit residents of the Sea to Sky corridor with an emphasis on children, youth and families. It is so rewarding to disburse these funds to some amazing local non- profits,” said Mei Madden, the WBF’s executive director, in a release.

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The largest grant saw $51,000 allocated to the Children’s Nature Play Park at the Pemberton and District Community Centre, run by the SLRD’s Pemberton and District Recreation Service.

“We’re very thankful for their support. It’s just been able to create a playground that is that much greater than what we would have been able to do without their support,” said Angela Belsham, recreation services manager for the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

In addition to an interlocking brick patio and grass maze, the already completed phases of the play park include a water feature with a decorative concrete stream, adventure park-style balancing elements, a large sand box, and some natural rock seating.

The WB Foundation funding will support the final phase of the project, which plans to add tee pee forts, a reading circle and outdoor classroom, as well as a perimeter trail.

“The focus on the play park is natural elements… Our plan for phase three would be to follow suit with more of those structures,” Belsham explained. “The Nature Play Park has been designed to expand the outdoor play opportunities available at the community centre. What we have done is carefully integrated elements into the park that are going to support creative play and confident exploration for children, and it helps children develop a lasting affinity for the natural world.”

The Pemberton & District Public Library also received a boost. The $40,000 in WBF funding they were awarded will help pay for phase one of the two-phase redesign planned for the main library space. These upgrades are needed to optimize the space to accommodate the changing needs of a growing community. Since 2008, visits are up by nearly 75 per cent, explained library director Emma Gillis.

“We’re seeing a significant number of visits, particularly in the fall and winter,” she said. “We regularly see over 500 people visit us during a day, which for a population of just over 6,000 is pretty awesome. It really highlighted the need (for improvements), because there are so many reasons that people visit the library and so many different activities they perform while they’re here, we just really wanted to make sure we were maximizing every square foot we have.”

The redesign will see the library remove the traditional-style service desk in favour of a more open, freestanding desk, as well as relocate the existing computers and purchase two more. Plans also include an increase in seating for the lounge area, as well as shorter, removable stack shelving in order to further open up the space.

“We’re a small library doing big things. It’s great to have the social support to be able to improve the space for our community,” Gillis said. “Grants like these have such a significant impact on a small community organization like us.”

The Pemberton Food Bank also received $7,500, enabling the important drop-in program to continue running twice a month.
Several Whistler recreation groups received WBF funds as well, including the Whistler Squash Club, the Whistler Sea Wolves Swim Club and the Whistler Skating Club, while the Whistler Minor Hockey Association was granted just over $11,000 for a cross ice hockey divider and goalie equipment.

Additional recipients of this year’s WBF funding include the Whistler Arts Council, École Squamish Elementary, Squamish Off Road Cycling Association (SORCA), Lions Bay Search & Rescue, Garibaldi Highlands Elementary, Sea to Sky Crimestoppers, Whistler Youth Basketball, Whistler Secondary School Theater Program, the X’it’olacw Community School Boys Soccer Team, the Whistler Multicultural Network and Junior Achievement of British Columbia to fund programs in the Sea to Sky corridor.

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