In 2018, the unincorporated community of Atlin celebrated the completion of significant accessibility upgrades to the Atlin Recreation Centre. As the only gathering place for the 350 people who live in the area, the upgrades were necessary to ensure that everyone is able comfortably access the centre that serves as an essential meeting place for a variety of community groups, training activities and serves as the polling station for all federal and provincial elections.
“Accessing buildings in our small northern community can be quite a challenge,” wrote a concerned mother of a paralyzed son in a letter of support that was included in Atlin Recreation Centre’s grant application package. “Our remote, unincorporated community has the heart to want to have wheelchair accessible buildings but lacks the funds to implement such projects. What an achievement it would be to repair and make our main essential community services building wheelchair accessible, allowing everyone to come and go independently. What a terrific way to show we are making great strides as a country in our inclusive world.”
Funding for the $175,000 upgrade project came from a variety of sources, including $30,000 from Northern Development’s former Community Halls and Recreation Facilities program. Other funding came from the Rick Hansen Foundation, Atlin Recreation Centre and incredibly generous donations of time and resources from community members.
“It’s amazing how our small community came together and raised over $100,000 for this project through donations, handyman and cake auctions and community dinners,” said Stuart Simpson, president, Atlin Recreation Centre. “Before this, someone in a wheelchair could not even get into the bathrooms and needed help into the building. Now we have accessible entrances and bathrooms. There is more to do and this is a huge start.”
The project’s budget exceeded $180,000 and saw the construction of an 18’ by 76’ addition containing two large accessible bathrooms, two storage rooms, an office, meeting room and custodian room. Two accessible ramps leading to the centre’s main floor were also installed. As a result, the centre’s capacity to host large events has been improved, leading to increased revenues and economic benefits for the community’s tourism and hospitality sector.
Prior to beginning the project, Atlin Recreation Centre projected that their revenues would increase by $25,000 in the year after the project was completed. However, in 2018 they hosted a several large events, including a regional curling bonspiel and some weddings, leading to a $150,000 revenue increase.