August 2023 - Newsletter

In this issue

All photos: Williams Lake Curling Club

Rick Hansen visited the Williams Lake Curling Club (WLCC) on June 29, 2023, to participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the formal opening of the club’s new elevator.  The $60,785 accessibility project was kickstarted by an anonymous $5,000 donation, which encouraged the WLCC board to consider how to meaningfully invest in their facility in a way that would benefit recreation and economic opportunity in Williams Lake.

“For all these years, I’ve been so proud of this community and all the members of the community who continue to set goals and remove barriers,” said Rick Hansen, founder, Rick Hansen Foundation, during the opening ceremony. “I’m so excited to be here at the Williams Lake Curling Centre to congratulate the curling club on their leadership and being able to respond to the challenge of just one person who started something with just a baby step. That catalyzed excitement and more volunteers. And here you are three years later, achieving another goal and dream. Proving that anything is possible once you have the courage to try. I’m super honoured to be here to celebrate this significant milestone on a continuing journey here in Williams Lake.”

As work began on the elevator, the board also decided to pursue other strategic improvements to ensure accessibility throughout the facility, from the moment people enter through the door to making their time at the club comfortable with accessible washroom upgrades upstairs and downstairs.

“NDIT was instrumental in the Williams Lake Curling Center in achieving its goal in building the elevator,” said Mike Pedersen, president, WLCC. “This has enabled us to be more inclusive and open to our community of Williams Lake and provincially to all curlers.”

WLCC’s initiative and leadership have gained recognition locally and throughout the province. On March 21, the club was recognized with an accessibility award of merit from the City of Williams Lake. In June, WLCC received the Curling Centre of the Year award from Curl BC. WLCC’s commitment to improving accessibility is one of the reasons they were recognized, along with the work of their volunteers and community engagement.

Northern Development supported the elevator project with a $15,000 grant through the former Community Halls and Recreation Facilities funding program. Today, this project would be eligible through the Recreation Infrastructure funding program, which was introduced in September 2020. This program makes up to $300,000 available to projects that create new or improve existing recreation infrastructure.

All photos: Northern Development

It has been five years since the Witset RV Park and Campground successfully completed extensive facility upgrades and opened as B.C.’s first accessible campground in 2018 on the edge of Widzin Kwah Canyon in Witset. The campground was originally constructed in the 1980s and after many years of enjoyment by travelers from around the world, it needed modernizing upgrades to ensure it was a welcoming place to stay.

“The Witset RV Campground and Museum has put itself on the map since having received the latest improvements” said Brenda Shaffer and Jimmy Thomas, caretakers, Witset Campground and Museum. “The accessibility for more adaptive campers is wonderful, the flat level and well-manicured sites make it easier to park, enjoy and move without obstruction. Including the accessibility of the museum, tourists are able to include cultural storytelling and visualize the living history of Witsets people, cultural and beauty.”

Witset First Nation invested over $160,000 to design and install 32 full-service sites with updated electricity, build a new, fully accessible washroom building, purchase and install 40 firepits, purchase and install 50 accessible picnic tables, renovate and upgrade the laundry room and strategically place directional signage on the highway and in the campground. Northern Development contributed $137,605 to improvements at the campground, helping build a key attraction along Highway 16 and the western route from B.C. to Alaska.

Witset First Nation began the project by intentionally thinking of how they can best welcome people and share their rich culture with guests. As travelers continue to visit the campground and its strong reputation builds, the local community is also benefiting.

“The benefits to Witset go beyond esthetics and improve the quality of life for the community,” said Shaffer. “There are daily increases in visits to the area for walks and a dynamic playground for children and youth. There is an area for picnicking and the campground is an ideal place to invite the family. The campground also provides alternative work placements for students who are interested in tourism and hospitality and there are full-time seasonal employment opportunities. The increase of international visitors demonstrates how a rich and diverse experience can be enjoyed in a world-class setting.”

Witset First Nation received a grant through Northern Development’s former Economic Diversification Infrastructure program. Through the current funding programs offered by the Trust, this same project would be eligible for funding through the Recreation Infrastructure program.

All photos: District of Vanderhoof

In 2021, Northern Development approved a Recreation Infrastructure grant for the District of Vanderhoof to demolish and replace the washhouse at Riverside Campground with an accessible, modern building including updated amenities and new coin-operated laundry machines. However, as the District of Vanderhoof prepared to begin construction, it was realized that if they were to place a new structure on the site, they would have to build to the 200-year flood plain, placing the new washhouse far away at a higher elevation, instead of in the campground’s boundary.

To adjust, the District did a complete renovation of the existing building, adding new electrical capabilities and equipment. The building’s exterior also received substantial improvements, including a new sidewalk, roof, siding, exterior doors, paint and lighting.

To ensure all people can comfortably access the facility, a new walkway was built between the main campground road and washhouse. Inside, a shower stall was updated to be wheelchair accessible and the sink was adjusted so people may wheel up to the sink to wash their hands without any barriers.

Since the project scope changed significantly, the overall cost was reduced. Northern Development contributed 33 per cent of the $81,245 total cost through a Recreation Infrastructure grant. When Northern Development approves a grant, it is for a percentage of the eligible project budget to a maximum dollar amount. When Northern Development originally approved the grant in 2021, it was for $100,000, to a maximum of 33 per cent of the project’s budget. With reduced costs, Northern Development’s contribution scaled down in proportion. Once project reporting was received, Northern Development issued a cheque to the District of Vanderhoof for $26,591, one-third of the overall cost.

Becoming accessibility certified through the Rick Hansen Foundation has many benefits.
Photo: Screenshot from the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification webpage.

Through the Competitiveness Consulting Rebate funding program, Northern Development provided a $15,000 rebate to a Cariboo-based property management company to support the accessibility certification of four of their properties through the Rick Hansen Foundation. Office spaces in Bella Coola, Chetwynd, Dawson Creek and Williams Lake are now recognized as being accessible, as evaluated by an adjudicator.

The adjudicator considered multiple elements during the site appraisal, including exterior approach, front entrance, office space, signage, washrooms and emergency equipment. As a result, the spaces are guaranteed to be accessible to more people, benefiting the broader community as people enter the offices to access services and resources.

The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™ is the only program that rates, certifies and showcases accessible buildings.

Photos: Jennifer Snider

The BC Hydro Peace Agricultural Compensation Fund (PACF) is seeking two people to join the board as members-at-large. Having a board comprised of local people involved in agricultural production and agrifoods economic activity ensures that funding allocation decisions will be made in the region, benefitting from the best information available and knowledge on the Peace Region’s agricultural strengths, needs, challenges and opportunities.

Those interested in this volunteer opportunity should email and include contact information, background (2-3 sentences) and explain why you are interested in the opportunity (2-3 sentences).

Other businesses and organizations involved in agriculture in the Peace Region can now apply for grant funding through the PACF.

Funding is available through three streams: events & educational initiatives, farming infrastructure and research & demonstration initiatives. The maximum available through each stream is $15,000, $50,000 and $100,000 respectively. View the application guides online for more information:

The current intake opened on July 31 and will close September 15, 2023.