In the spring of 2014 it became evident that former leak patches on the hall’s roof were no longer holding up and the roof must be replaced in order to sustain the services offered by the facility. The Big Lake Community Association applied for and received funding from five external sources, including Northern Development who provided $16,935, to replace the roof, upgrade insulation, improve accessibility and upgrade toilets.
“Upgrading the roof was definitely necessary, that made a huge difference,” said Bee Hooker, president of the Big Lake Community Association. “Making the building wheelchair accessible directly benefits two ladies in the community who are wheelchair bound. Beyond that, we always have people showing up for events that use wheelchairs. Having an accessible building makes a huge difference and now the hall looks much better and is much more useful.”
Big Lake Community Hall with new roof.
The upgrades were completed in May 2015 and immediately hall rental bookings increased, and within six months, 30 per cent more bookings had been made, including six weddings. This uptake in bookings surpassed the amount of additional bookings that were anticipated in the three years following the project’s completion.
The hall’s versatile nature was proven during the wildfire season of 2017 when it was used as temporary accommodations for fire fighters until better housing could be found. Community members also used the facility to prepare and serve meals to those combating the fires.
“We went through six weeks of hell, but it built a whole lot more community spirit because people realized they can rely on their neighbours,” Hooker reflected. “People miss the comradery of meeting every morning in the hall and eating breakfast together before going out and fighting the fires… Now, we’re seeing a lot more use of the building because a stronger sense of community was built.”
The community of Big Lake is expanding, and the Big Lake Community Association is intentionally active in ensuring the area is an attractive place to live. In 2018, the Big Lake Community Hall Low Mobility Wilderness trail opened. This trail is the result of a partnership between the Cariboo Regional District and the Big Lake Community Association and part of a larger network of 20 accessible trails in the Cariboo, also supported by the Trust.
“It was a good team effort and we’re quite tickled with how it turned out,” Hooker enthused. “It’s just the beginning of a good start. I truly expect there’s going to be a lot more going on in the spring and summer of 2019.”