Coquihalla rest stop in Merritt to get new life following land transfer - InfoNews

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Coquihalla rest stop in Merritt to get new life following land transfer

Image Credit: Google Maps
September 26, 2020 - 9:00 PM

A popular Merritt rest stop on the Coquihalla Highway that was closed in 2018 should soon be infused with new life.

Merritt Gateway rest stop, which was formerly the Merritt Tourism Information Centre, is part of an 11-hectare transfer of Crown land to the Nicola Valley First Nations. The deal is the province fulfilling a promise made in March 2019 to work together to grow the regional economy and advance reconciliation with the First Nations.

The Coldwater Indian Band, Lower Nicola Indian Band, Nooaitch Indian Band, Shackan Indian Band and Upper Nicola Indian Band, as a collective of local First Nations, sought the transfer of the Gateway lands for more than two decades.

“This journey of having these lands transferred to the five First Nations has been made possible by the commitment and hard work of past and present Chiefs and Councillors to realize this day," Jordan Joe, Chief of the Shackan Indian Band and a director with Spayum Holdings Limited Partnership said in a press release.

The lands will be transferred via Spayum Holdings, a consolidated development corporation owned by the five Nicola Valley First Nations.  Spayum anticipates investing $40 million and creating hundreds of permanent and temporary jobs during the development of the site.

“The City of Merritt is pleased to come together in partnership with the local Nicola Valley Indigenous communities to welcome this transfer of land at Exit 286. Many years of planning and consultation have laid the foundation for this land transfer at this prominent community entrance,”  Linda A. Brown, mayor of Merritt said in a press release.

“Our council acknowledges and respects the principles of trust, openness and reconciliation laid out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and we are pleased to see this great example of local collaboration. We look forward to this new opportunity to work together at Exit 286 for the overall well-being of the Nicola Valley.”

Up until 2018, Destination B.C. ran the visitor centre, which was one of six in the province that they were transitioning out of, Kathleen Harvey, manager, visitor services calling from Destination BC said in an interview earlier this year.

“With Merritt, it was obviously a popular stop for a lot of people but it was primarily being used as a washroom stop and not for tourism information,” Harvey said. “The site itself was in need of significant upgrades to the infrastructure.”

She said the move was ultimately a good news story for downtown Merritt.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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