KAMLOOPS - As one of the largest ski resorts in Canada, Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality continues to plan for growth.
Right now the community is in a chicken and egg situation, according to Mayor Al Raine. To attract permanent residents, he says the town needs to get facilities to support them. To get financial support from the provincial government, the community needs to show growth.
He says some facilities, such as the arena and health centre, are coming along well, while a school is farther off.
Right now the health centre is a small portable and Raine says doctors come up to for a couple hours a day in the winter and a couple days a week in the summer. This summer construction should start on a new health centre though, with the city in the midst of finalizing documents for a building which will cost around $1.2 million, plus the cost of equipping and staffing it.
“We’re just putting the tendering documents together. We’re looking to award a contract by the end of April,” he says. “We want to make sure we’re open and ready to go by the first of December.”
The centre has already been designed and Raine is eager to move forward with the next steps.
“Our hope is that as soon as we award the contract we’re going to start fully looking for a doctor to establish him or herself in Sun Peaks,” he says.
An NHL-sized open-air arena is also close, with construction set to happen over the summer as well.
“We’ve got that all budgeted and funds are set aside,” Raine says. “We’re fortunate, we got a grant from the province for $400,000 several years ago. Other grants came in as well.”
Plans for an ice rink fell through last year when it was decided the chosen location would not work. Raine says the municipality then decided to build a larger venue which could host concerts or trade shows.
As for childhood education, Raine says there’s still plenty of work to do on a new school. Currently there is a small education centre for the approxiamtley 75 students. A teacher works with younger grades while secondary students use the district's @KOOL online education system.
One option the Sun Peaks mayor likes for a new school is a neighbourhood learning centre, similar to what Revelstoke currently has. Raine says having a central centre like that would likely work best for the community. He would also like the school to include a full-sized gymnasium, something which could be used by the school during the day and provide space for indoor sports during evenings and weekends.
Currently, though, school planning is stalled while they wait for a committee involving School District 73 to be created. Supt. Karl deBruijn says Raine presented to the school board in December and the district plans to be involved in the community consultations.
Raine would also like to see some financial contribution from the province towards a future school. Right now he says school facilities in the mountain resort community are funded by the community through fundraisers and donations.
A library has also been discussed, though Raine says when the public was consulted a library was not a primary concern.
“We asked the community what they were looking for,” he says. “A school, health and recreation facilities were all in higher positions.”
However, he says the Thompson-Nicola Regional Distrct is aware the community lacks a library while still contributing money towards library services.
“They’re keen to see something,” he says. “It’s an important part of the school discussion.”
Raine says these projects are all efforts to attract more people to the small community. In particular he’d like to keep families because he believes they stabilize the community. He notes it’s hard to estimate the population of the resort town because of the fluctuating, seasonal residency.
“We’re probably about 600 people year round, and grow in winter,” he says.
He says numbers can be a bit misleading to provincial ministries though, and thinks the community can peak up to 5,000 people during busy winters, with a mix of permanent residents, temporary employees or resort guests.
He says numbers from the 2011 federal census aren’t helping the community and is hoping the numbers in the upcoming 2016 census will help show the growth he’s seen in Sun Peaks. However, it’s timed badly for the resort community, where the number of people living there dips in the spring between the busy ski season and summer vacations. The census is scheduled for May, when he says many people have moved away, or on their own vacations.
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