On November 28th, a group of local professional planners and economic developers showed off what, for some, has been years in the making.
The Columbia Valley Community Economic Development (CVCED) Tour was initiated and executed to facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing between key CED professionals in the Columbia Valley.
The tour began at the Village of Canal Flats and ended in Edgewater with stops at Akisqnuk First Nations, Shuswap Indian Band (SIB), District of Invermere (DOI), and Village of Radium Hot Springs.
The Village of Canal Flats’ Economic Development Officer (EDO) is Chris Fields. Mr. Fields has been working with the Village to stabilize the community.
The Flats RV & Campground and Base Camp Coffee Shop have been bought by a new-to-the-village couple, Kelly & Kate. If you’ve been to Canal Flats in the last 16 months, you’ve probably met them. They have a number of lines of business going and a few more in the works.
The former Canfor mill site represents the largest industrial area in the Columbia Valley and the new owner, BID Group, is still weighing options.
Heather Rennebohm, EDO with Akisqnuk First Nation, has numerous projects underway, including an affordable housing complex, 13.5-acre commercial lot development, health centre improvements, and a 22,400 sq. ft. recreation centre – which officially broke ground on December 8.
By way of a meeting with the Shuswap Indian Band (SIB) Chief and Council, the touring group learned that the SIB has several significant projects in flight. Although there is relatively little economic development directly on the reserve recently, the SIB is a member of the First Nations Tax Commission and serves the ratepayers on commercial and industrial lands. The SIB Reserve #0 is currently working with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on finalizing the details of the transfer lands to the Province of BC for the widening of Highway 93/95. The Shuswap Band is active in Columbia River Treaty; has a 1/5 ownership stake in St. Eugene Golf Resort & Casino; is a shareholder and partner in North Rock Holdings Inc.; and operates the Kinbasket Water and Sewer Company Ltd. that delivers water and wastewater treatment services to on reserve and RDEK residents and businesses. The SIB also administrates its own development and permitting on its land through the Land Code, making it comparable to neighbouring jurisdictions in legislative and business development requirements.
The newly constructed Columbia Valley Centre was highlighted on the tour by Rory Hromadnik, with the District of Invermere’s (DOI) Development Services, as a joint project between the RDEK and DOI. The Community Centre includes a library, 7,000 sq. ft. hall with 500 person seating capacity, and plans for a rooftop patio.
Outside of the Columbia Valley Centre, the DOI has plans for redevelopment of the 7th Ave/4th St intersection; traffic calming along Laurier St; and improvements around James Chabot Provincial Park in Athalmer.
Continuing north up Highway 93/95, Arne Dohlen, Director of Planning and Development Services with the Village of Radium Hot Springs, explained that the $3.2M, 7,500 sq. ft. Radium Community Centre will be completed for May 2018. There have also been open house events to discuss conceptual plans for the adjacent park’s redevelopment and a Flo fast electrical vehicle charging station was just opened on December 11.
Ending in Edgewater, Gerry Wilkie, RDEK Electoral Area G Director, showed off the soon-to-be-completed Frank’s Rink and busy Community Hall. Director Wilkie explained that a feasibility study for a Community Hub was written in 2010 to replace some aging buildings in the centre of the community, but would likely need to be updated before any new work began.
Overall, there the residents of the Columbia Valley are benefiting from many community projects, which have been made possible from a variety of funding sources.
While there are many great amenities in the planning stages, under construction or receiving renovations, generally telecommunications issues, including access to broadband, may challenge the development of some areas of the Columbia Valley. It is anticipated that $750M in CRTC funding, which is to be announced beginning in 2018, will help rural communities to close the broadband gap.
Communication between communities is key and will continue to be the focus of the CVCEDO, helping to ensure that information, studies and plans are shared between each community, so that gaps can be collectively covered, overlap is minimized and collaboration is encouraged.
For more information contact:
Ryan Watmough MBA
Columbia Valley Community Economic Development Officer