February 2022 - Newsletter

In this issue

Northern Development at a glance


of Trust funds invested in projects since 2005


projects approved since 2005

All photos: Mark Pokorski – Caledonia Classic Dog Sled Races

Early in February the Caledonia Classic Dog Sled Races returned to Fort St. James after being cancelled in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated provincial health orders. The races have been growing in popularity with word-of-mouth, increased presence on Facebook and a partnership with the University of Northern British Columbia’s Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Management program playing a major role in educating people about the annual February event.

“After cancelling the 2021 races due to the pandemic, it was wonderful to welcome mushers, volunteers and spectators back to Stuart Lake,” said Craig Houghton, president, Fort St. James Sled Dog Association. “For 26 years, these races have brought people together during the cold winter to celebrate sport and community. We’ve been intentionally curating the event to appeal to more people of varying ages, abilities and interests and it’s been drawing more people to Fort St. James. People  come from as far as Quesnel and Smithers to watch the races or to volunteer.”

The three-day event included a 200-mile race, 100-mile race, sprint races, skijor events, politician’s race and a kid ‘n mutt race. The variety of races appeals to a range of spectators and participants, with the 200-mile race being one of three Canadian qualifiers for both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod. The two distance races draw competitors from across Canada, with racers coming from Quebec, Alberta, Yukon and Northwest Territories.

As a Yukon Quest and Iditarod qualifier, the 200-mile race requires a qualified veterinarian to be retained on site and to always have race officials at the finish line until the competitors arrive. To assist with these costs, the Fort St. James Sled Dog Association successfully applied to Northern Development’s Fabulous Festivals and Events program for a $2,500 grant.

The community of Fort St. James experiences economic and social benefits from the annual multi-day event. Over the years, the Caledonia Classic Dog Sled Races have attracted dog mushers from all over Canada, parts of the United States and even some parts of Europe. Competitors travel to Fort St. James and attract spectators, people who require lodging, food, fuel and other services, providing a boost to the local economy during the quiet winter months.

“It’s great for the community in a bunch of ways,” explained Houghton. “It brings together various groups and community volunteers to ensure the event runs smoothly. The local snowmobile club is integral to ensuring the trails are in prime shape for the teams and Search and Rescue is also on hand. Individual volunteers from Fort St. James and beyond also generously contribute their time to the event. It’s just lovely.”

Northern Development’s Fabulous Festivals and Events program provides grants of up to $5,000 to event organizers in Northern B.C. This grant can be used to help with a variety of costs to help increase attendance or to make the event more successful.

Photo: Celina Daylrimple via BRVCA

After a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Winterfest returned to the Bridge River Valley on February 19. The annual celebration is held on Little Gun Lake and includes pond hockey, curling, ice fishing, scavenger hunt, snowmobile poker run, raffles, helicopter rides, concession and more.

“The goals for Winterfest 2022 were more than achieved,” said Patrick Dahle, president, Bridge River Valley Community Association. “We had 300 attendees and, more importantly, the event contributed to the area’s civic mental health after two years of isolation.”

To assist with the costs of advertising and hosting Winterfest, the Bridge River Valley Community Association successfully applied for a $2,500 Fabulous Festivals and Events grant from Northern Development.

Although free to attend, Winterfest stimulates the local and regional economy by increasing visitation to the area during the tourism shoulder season, benefiting businesses connected to the hospitality industry. According to organizers, this event has also been a contributing factor in growing the local population as it has made people aware of what the community offers year-round.

Photo: Lisa Wagner via BRVCA

Funding for this festival, and other events in the Trust’s service region, came from the Fabulous Festivals and Events grant program. This program accepts applications throughout the year, so event organizers do not need to wait for an intake to close before learning if their application was successful.

Ricky and Shanlee Letendre with their daughter in Hazelton.

Last year, Ricky and Shanlee Letendre moved to Hazelton to live closer to family and friends and to have easy access to outdoor adventures with their daughter and two dogs. They purchased a building in the tourist area of Hazelton, one block away from the Skeena River, and created an event hosting venue named The Hazel Branch.

“The Hazel Branch has a uniquely comfortable and homely feel, with all the handcarved woodwork giving it lots of character,” said Shanlee Letendre. “It is currently being contracted to the Salvation Army, who has set up a food bank out of the restaurant space. We also have an AirBnB available for our carriage for guests who want to stay and experience the life in Old Hazelton.”

With a fully certified commercial kitchen and comfortable seating for 60 people, The Hazel Branch is an ideal location for parties, wedding receptions, conferences, corporate events, intimate concerts, birthday parties and any other gathering that clients might need.

Soon after opening The Hazel Branch, the Letendres joined the Love Northern BC community by submitting their application to join Love The Hazeltons. For a one-time $100 fee, they received a professional photoshoot of The Hazel Branch, a professionally written business description and a webpage on lovethehazeltons.com – find their profile here: https://lovenorthernbc.com/community/hazelton/business/the-hazel-branch/

Beyond offering a new event venue to the community, Shanlee is a certified dance instructor who is certified by the Canadian Dance Teacher’s Association in ballet, jazz and modern. She also recently became a certified Acro Arts 1 instructor. Shanlee is sharing her skills with the community by offering an array of dance classes for all ages at the Upper Skeena Recreation Centre (USRC).

Photo: Shanlee Letendre

“Starting up a dance program at the USRC has been amazing, my students and their families seem really excited and enthusiastic about the dance classes I offer,” said Shanlee Letendre. “I have had a lot of interest in my Ballet classes, as well as Hip Hop. I also offer Jazz, and Adult Cardio. I teach students as young as three for my preschool classes, after-school classes for both elementary and high school students, as well as adult classes which have the option of drop-in. Once the dance program becomes more built up, I would like to offer Modern/Contemporary, Tap, and Acro. The staff at the USRC have been greatly supportive and work generously with me to making the dance program grow.”

Northern Development invested in the development of the USRC, with a $250,000 grant from the Economic Diversification Infrastructure program for the facility’s construction, and $125,000 for equipment acquisition through the same funding program.

While relatively new to Hazelton, the Letendre family is creating a positive impact in the community through their new business, The Hazel Tree, and by offering new recreational opportunities to residents through Shanlee’s dance classes.

All photos: Cariboo Regional District

The Bouchie Lake Outdoor Rink recently received some renovations to revitalize the popular recreation facility for residents of Bouchie Lake and Millburn Lake. To celebrate the refreshed rink, Margo Wagner, chair, Northern Development and Cariboo Regional District, along with other community representatives, participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday February 19.

“Once this project is completed, this rural community will have a safe, accessible and easy-to maintain facility with recreation opportunities for all ages,” said Chair Wagner.

The Bouchie Lake Outdoor Rink is extremely popular in the winter months as an accessible place to skate or play hockey. In the warmer months, ice hockey is replaced with ball hockey, skating with rollerblading and games of pickup basketball also take place.

The rink is an important amenity for students and families who live in the area, as many live far away from Quesnel, so time, transportation and registration fees are a barrier for those wanting to access community recreation facilities and programs in Quesnel. The Bouchie Lake Outdoor Rink is easy walking distance from Bouchie Lake Elementary School, providing children and youth with a safe place to play outside at no cost.

To ensure the venue will continue to benefit current and future community members, significant upgrades had to be completed, including replacing rink boards, filling concrete gaps on the playing surface, painting, sealing and rebuilding basketball frames and hoops. Most of the project has been completed, with some concrete work to be done once the weather warms up.

Northern Development approved a $30,000 Community Places grant to the Cariboo Regional District in June 2021 to help with the $51,084 project.