The Hill Academy is coming to Pemberton.
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between the Ontario-based owners of the proposed private sports and healthy living school, Hill Canada Inc., the Village of Pemberton (VOP) and the Sunstone Group on Oct. 1.
The signing took place on the proposed site of the school adjacent to Highway 99, the Sunstone Ridge housing development site and the 8.6-hectare lot recently purchased by the VOP for $10 from the Den Duyf family for future recreation amenities.
Pemberton mayor Jordan Sturdy, Hill Academy CEO Peter Merrill and Sunstone Development's president, Neil Colquhoun, signed on behalf of their respective organizations and companies.
The Hill Academy will operate its campus on the Sunstone Group's land with the aim of having 250 Grade 7 to 12 students, of whom three-quarters would live in residence.
A key part of the agreement is the development of recreational and sporting facilities on the Den Duyf land next door. Initially, sports fields and field houses are most likely to be developed. This would be followed by other sporting complex buildings, though whether this comes in the form of a recreation centre, swimming pool or ice rink or a combination of them has not yet been decided.
The three will work together over the coming months in order to see the school established in 2015, said Pemberton's chief administrative officer Daniel Sailland.
"The MOU is a basis for advancing this project and to have an independent school of excellence, both academic as well as sports excellence," he told the 20 people who gathered to witness the signing.
Merrill was very pleased to have reached this point, having entered into discussions about establishing the school in February 2013. Site selection took place in September.
"This is really a culmination of... months of discussions. When it comes right down to it, we're in our eighth year at the Hill Academy in Ontario and it's a family business. To think that we'd been in a situation like this is tremendously exciting," he said.
"The backdrop of Pemberton and all it has to offer is just out of this world. We drove around the site and we're really excited to be involved."
Sturdy called the signing "a game changer" and noted its location between the village, the wider Pemberton area in SLRD Area C and Mount Currie was ideal for the region. The planned Friendship trail between Pemberton and Mount Currie would also run through it, he added.
Later, at the regular council meeting, Sturdy said there was a lot of work ahead.
"But I think that the will is there, the circumstances are there, the desire is there and the opportunity is there," he told council.
To that end, council later passed amendments to the official community plan and VOP zoning for the recreation site.
Mount Currie trail complete
Councillor Ted Craddock reported that the Mount Currie trail, which was under construction throughout the year, is now complete, thanks to the work of the Pemberton Valley Trails Association.
A "soft opening" is planned for next month, he told council. One hiker took around 4.5 hours to reach the alpine.
With winter coming, backcountry skiers are likely to be the initial beneficiaries, he said. There is also the potential to fly up and hike back down and there have already been inquiries.