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Imagine the possibilities

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Squamish’s opportunity on the waterfront came through years of remediation work

Picture a white piece of paper, a green field of sorts. Now imagine several kilometres of prime waterfront, one of the last remaining working estuaries in B.C., spectacular seaside views and mountain vistas, and a 300-metre beach kissing the most southerly fjord on the Pacific Coast. Add to that the irrepressible force of the 2010 Olympic Games and an impassioned community champing at the bit and you have a recipe for endless opportunity.

Three weeks ago, Squamish was merely talking about the latent possibilities of waterfront development. But with the purchase of 71 acres of land bordering Howe Sound from the provincial government last month for a tidy $1, Squamish finds itself jettisoned into the potential realities of the future; a challenging yet tacitly daunting opportunity as the community redefines itself for the 21 st century.

"Squamish has to turn these challenges around and see them not as daunting," said Bob Purdy, director of corporate development with the Fraser Basin Council at a Squamish Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday, "but take a dauntless attitude, where nothing seems impossible or insurmountable, to find maybe not the perfect solution but the best solution."

The Fraser Basin Council has taken a lead role in assisting Squamish in "finding itself" for the past eight months. At the invitation of Mayor Ian Sutherland, Purdy and his team held a "Strengthening Communities" dialogue session last April. It was at this meeting that the waterfront became more than the political focus of the newly elected council. The varied and diverse members of the community, including representative from Interfor, BC Rail, and other stakeholders, overwhelmingly saw the waterfront as the town’s greatest asset, an untapped resource that needed to be made a priority. The result of the meeting: a recommendation that the Fraser Basin Council consider facilitating multi-interest consultation on the future of the downtown waterfront.

Yet waterfront development is not a new concept for Squamish. Prior to the construction of the railway in 1956 and Highway 99 in 1958 south to Vancouver, Squamish was a rural town accessible only by boat. A pier at the end of the peninsula south of present-day downtown welcomed all to the region; a hotel situated on what is now a log sort south of Vancouver Street was the largest and most impressive structure in the town centre.

For the past 40 years, the peninsula continued to be dominated by industry. Log sorts, chemical plants and other heavy industry used the rail and water access to their benefit, employing many workers in this resource-based town.

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