SLRD buys property on Gates Lake

Land to be new site of rec facility; old site to be put on market

Why did the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) cross the road? To build the Gates Lake recreation facility on the other side.

The SLRD announced just before Christmas it has purchased a three-acre property in Birken on the lake, across Portage Road from the originally-proposed site of a recreation hub for the Poole Creek-D'Arcy corridor.

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The best approach to develop a facility serving the area has been hotly debated by lawmakers and residents over the past year, but Area C director Susie Gimse said the new site provides a "fresh slate" to work from.

"This property just happened to come up, so it was a great opportunity for us to purchase it," said Gimse.

"We feel that the location we found is a much better location, and it was very timely in that it came up for sale shortly after our community consultation process (for the old proposal). It's a nice spot."

The SLRD paid $540,000 for the new property, which "features both wooded areas and green spaces and offers unrestricted views of Gates Lake," said a press release. Funding came out of the Area C Parks and Amenities Fund.

The other site, for which the SLRD paid about $365,000 in 2010, will be listed on the market for sale, with proceeds going towards development of the new property.

The original plans called for a $400,000 renovation of a house located on the old site to make it suitable as a recreation facility. Some expressed concerns that the finished product wouldn't provide adequate space for the community's needs.

The SLRD then rolled out a new proposal that suggested a 5,000-square-foot hall being added to the property. Those plans were presented to the public before the SLRD board voted to halt any further progress on the facility.

"There seemed to be a lot of concern about the fact that we bought a house and were trying to re-jig it to become a community space," said Gimse.

The release said the first phase of development for the new property will be focused on making it available as a park and leisure space. Further work must be completed to service the site before it is fully operational. Although there is a power hook-up available for the land, water and septic services need to be established.

In the meantime, the SLRD is awaiting the results of a recreation study, the draft of which should be ready by the end of February. Nearly 500 surveys were mailed out to community members during the fall as part of the study, and the responses will help identify priorities for the facility. Further public engagement will be scheduled "early in 2013," said the release, before a plan is finalized.

"The survey will guide us as we move forward," said Gimse. "There's some work that needs to be done before we determine exactly what we're going to do there."

The SLRD board voted unanimously to purchase the property. Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy, who expressed concerns with the original proposal and questioned if the old site would be the best location, said Monday (Dec. 31) that he's pleased with the new acquisition.

"That property will better serve the interests of the community over the longer period of time," said Sturdy, who was particularly excited at the potential of easier access to Gates Lake via the property. "That lake is a great asset to the Sea to Sky, but it's (currently) awkward at best to go skating or to go swimming. So we'll be in a much better position to make use of what is a great public resource."

There is a CN Rail line that runs along the lake shore behind the property, and the SLRD is working with CN officials to allow water access.

"Staff have met with CN on site, and the sense they got was there was a willingness (from CN) to work with us to develop a safe crossing there," said Gimse.

The property includes a small cabin that could eventually be re-purposed as a washroom facility, said Gimse.

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