Construction is underway at the old waste depot site on Nesters Road. Crews are putting up a new building that will become the new home of the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS), giving the social services provider a centrally located headquarters.
WCSS operates the food bank and the Re-Use-It Centre. Both will be relocated to the building, which will also feature office space for outreach workers.
The building will be located behind the Whistler Animals Galore (WAG) shelter. "We've poured the foundation, and we've started construction. You'll start to see it soon," said WCSS executive director Cheryl Skribe.
WCSS offices are currently located in Spring Creek, which makes them challenging to access for people without vehicles.
"We're going to be more central. It's going to be easier for people to get there," said Skribe, who is thrilled about the move.
As part of the changes, the Re-Build-It Centre will leave its current home on Alpha Lake Road and move into the Re-Use-It Centre's current home on Lynham Road in Function.
That will save WCSS around $80,000 a year, said Skribe, who added that WCSS has an agreement with the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) to operate out of the Lynham location rent-free.
"By not having to pay that (rent) we can direct that money into social programming," she said.
The addition of the Re-Use-It Centre to the Nesters location will make the area a recycling destination. In August, Whistler's new waste depot was opened up at 8100 Nesters Road.
For Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, it makes sense to have both places close to each other.
"I think by consolidating the Re-Use-It Centre with the Nesters recycling depot, we will be able to divert even more items from the landfill. Because it will be so much easier for people just to do their recycling then walk over to the Re-Use-It Centre."
The project, explained Wilhelm-Morden, has "been in the works for quite some time." The RMOW purchased the land upon which WCSS will sit in 2012 for just over $1.2 million.
The RMOW is also supporting the construction of the new building. As part of the lease, the municipality will lend WCSS $850,000 — half the expected total construction cost — for the new building, which is slated to cost $3.1 million.
WCSS will pay back the loan over 50 years, with a minimum yearly payment of $17,000.
Changes are also coming to WAG.
"We have temporarily lost our only outdoor enclosed grass/dirt run, which has impacted the number of dogs that we are able to intake at the moment," explained Catherine Mazza, a spokesperson for the organization, in an emailed statement.
This fall, WAG will begin construction on a new dog run, funded entirely through donations. But Mazza says it won't be the same as before.
"It is smaller in square footage and will have no grass or mature trees, no digging pit, and (it will be) differently shaped."
WAG will do what it can to bring the landscaping and "dog enrichment" elements back, she said.
Over at the new waste depot, Paul Kindree, assistant manager of the operator, Carney's Waste Systems, said that things are going well and that the new design is a huge improvement.
"The amount of space is probably three or four times. It's laid out much better. It's a lot safer," he said, adding that the size is "probably three or four times" as big.
Over the years, Whistler's demand for recycling has grown.
Last year, just under 38,000 metric tonnes of waste were produced in Whistler, including 13,000 tonnes of organic waste, which had historically been sent to the landfill. More than a quarter of Whistler's waste in 2016 — 28 per cent — not including organics, was diverted from the landfill through recycling stewardship programs.
Wilhelm-Morden has confidence that having the Re-Use-It Centre so close to the waste depot will encourage even more recycling.
Years ago, the waste depot was "just a bin you threw garbage into," she noted, underlining the progress Whistler has made over the years.