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Den Duyf family donates land to VOP to build recreational complex

Soccer fields could be first development on 20-acre parcel of land

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The Den Duyf family has donated a 20-acre parcel of land off Pemberton Farm Road East to the Village of Pemberton (VOP) to develop for recreational activities.

VOP mayor Mike Richman said the land would serve as the "recreational hub" of the Pemberton Valley.

"You can't overstate the value of this," said Richman. "It's a massive step in being able to provide recreational facilities.

"We are grateful to the Den Duyf family. We hope to create a recreation legacy that Art (Den Duyf) would be proud of."

In explaining the gift Joanne Molinaro, Art Den Duyf's daughter, said her father came to the valley in 1997 and felt that recreational opportunities were important for the VOP and the surrounding areas' success.

"We are pleased to see mom and dad's donation for recreation development for the benefit of all Pemberton, Area C and Lil'wat Nation community members," said Molinaro.

"The property was gifted for the sole purpose of recreation."

The family hopes to see a pool or an arena on the property.

"We would hope that the three local governments will be able to pave a way for an arena or pool or some other items that will benefit the community," said Molinaro, explaining that these recreational opportunities would cut down on travel time for parents of athletes who often have to travel to Whistler or beyond.

While the community already boasts a gym and a skate/BMX park, Richman said that acquiring the property will bring the community one step closer to its goal of indoor arenas.

The first order of business, however, will be to get funding to build a soccer field. "Realistically, for our community, we have to do one piece at a time," said Richman.

At its Sept. 12 meeting, VOP council passed a motion to work with the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District's Area C on a Request For Expressions of Interest for the fields.

The VOP is also working in coordination with Area C to win provincial grants to build the fields, Richman explained. The long-term goal, he said, is to build a sports complex. A conceptual design "for discussion purposes only" for the area features a gymnasium, arena, and pool as project goals.

Getting title over the land will make it easier to get provincial grants, because it allows the VOP to present the province with a solid plan and say this is the land they are going to build on and it belongs to them, explained Richman.

"You have more access to grants when you have that kind of leverage," he said, noting that what governments spend tends to vary from year to year. "It goes in cycles," he said.

This isn't the first time the VOP has tried to build a recreational the facility on the property. In 2014, Pemberton held a referendum on whether the village should borrow millions to build a multi-sport recreational facility on the property — 85 per cent of voters said "no."

Richman said that the vote was a clear statement that the village doesn't want the VOP to tackle any such project alone, since any recreational facility built would also be used by area residents that don't necessarily live in the village.

"People want to see us collaborate on this," he said.

Preparation for construction has already begun. Dirt, bought from a nearby development project, has been laid down, flattening the ground.

"Recreation is so key to the health of a community," said Richman. "All the 'i's are dotted and 't's are crossed and the land transfer is complete. A huge thank you to the family for that."

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