For Art Den Duyf, founder of local excavation and construction company the Sabre Group, giving back to the community was always a priority.
“Our dad saw success in Whistler and then had some success in Pemberton, and he always felt that giving back was part of the whole circle,” said Joanne Molinaro, Den Duyf’s daughter, over the phone from the family’s business at the Pemberton Industrial Park.
Now, just over five years to the date since his passing, that legacy of generosity is continuing. As per the Den Duyf patriarch’s wishes, the Village of Pemberton is now the official owner of an eight-hectare piece of land that was generously gifted by the family.
The land is zoned solely for recreation and parks usage, and was donated with the stipulation that it eventually house a recreation development that could serve as a hub for the valley communities of Pemberton, Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) Area C and Lil’wat First Nation in Mt. Currie.
“I think he just felt like the site was a good landing point between all three communities and that having recreation facilities, as in an arena or a pool, would draw people to the community,” Molinaro said.
Despite the active nature of the community, the Pemberton Valley has been feeling the void of recreational amenities for decades. Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman recalled hosting a fundraiser at his restaurant in 1994 to raise money to build an arena in Pemberton. “An arena was on the radar long before I got here in 1991, and it still is, so it just goes to show how challenging it is for a small community to bring these amenities in without some sort of corporate support,” he said.
The generous donation brings the long-desired recreation complex one large step closer to becoming a reality, Richman explained, stressing the Village’s appreciation.
“It’s so awesome,” he said. “What a great gift… The family recognized the importance of recreation in a community like ours, and to provide us with that land is so huge. When you consider the size of our community, for us to purchase land, develop it into the kind of recreational vision that we have and provide those recreation facilities is such a major financial task for a budget the size of the one we have in our valley. This is a huge foundational point for being able to provide that kind of recreation to the community.”
Having ownership of the land will also give the Village more leverage when applying for grants to fund a recreational complex in the future, Richman added. “Owning the land is not just a wonderful gift, but it’s going to make those grants more accessible.”
While a rink, pool, field house, gym or any combination of the sort have been discussed as possibilities for future development of the land, site preparation is already underway for the soccer fields that are planned for the short-term. The Village is currently working to secure funds to pay for those fields, as well as any future recreational developments.
“Our goal is to be able to build some soccer fields out there without going to the taxbase or taxation,” Richmond explained. “We’ve applied for some grants so we’re putting those pieces together as we speak, but ideally by this time next year I’d like to see our kids out there playing on it. That’s certainly not a guarantee but we’ll see how it goes.”
As for the Den Duyf family, Molinaro said they’re looking forward to seeing their father’s generosity continue to impact the community for years to come.
“We’re really proud of dad’s legacy and honoured to be his kids and see (the project) through to fruition,” she said.
The Village of Pemberton and Den Duyf family will host a ribbon cutting ceremony next Tuesday (Sept. 19) at 4:30 p.m. on the donated land. The site is located on the East side of Pemberton Farm Road East.