The Village of Pemberton took its first step at a Tuesday meeting towards building a trail that will connect it with Mount Currie.
A recommendation before Village council asked it to approve an application for $2,975,612.50 through the Gas Tax, Capitol Projects (Innovative Fund) to go towards construction of a pedestrian-friendly connection between Mount Currie, the Pemberton Industrial Park, the Plateau subdivision and the Village core.
Village Administrator Daniel Sailland introduced the recommendation, which would set in motion the construction of a "non-motorized connector route between these employment nodes and neighbourhoods," according to a staff memo.
Village staff believe the trail could increase commuting by cycle and on foot, which would reduce carbon emissions and "residual vehicle contaminants affecting our watercourses and air," the memo said.
"The intent of this trail is to connect the two communities, Mount Currie and the Village of Pemberton, with a cyclable or pedestrian trail that's off the highway," Sailland told council. "It would include a pedestrian bridge over the Lillooet River and lighting, so any safety or nighttime concerns can be addressed for nighttime travel."
The money, which would come from a fund administered by the provincial government, is expected to cover 100 per cent of the project's costs if the application is successful.
The project comes in response to a 2006 community survey that showed 56 per cent of Mount Currie residents walk or hitchhike as a way into Pemberton. It also responds to concerns that much walking and cycling occurs along Highway 99, activities that may contribute to the 21 road-related incidents each year between the two communities.
As an alternative to the highway, residents often walk along the CN Railway right-of-way, and thus end up trespassing into town. The railway sees an average of two to three trains a day. This same rail line is also the sole route for mountain bikers into the Mackenzie Basin, a popular biking trail network. It is illegal for recreational users to traverse it.
Councillor Susie Gimse said the Friendship Trail was an "excellent idea" and that anytime the Village has an opportunity to apply for grant funding they should take advantage of it. She had some questions around responsibility for trail maintenance and Sailland responded that responsibility would fall to the Village.
Also at the meeting, council dealt with an application by the Pemberton and District Chamber of Commerce for a grant-in-aid request of $5,000 to help with operations of the Pemberton Visitors Centre, so long as the building can be brought into compliance or relocated to a suitable location before June 2011.
It was initially recommended to council that it approve $2,500 for the Chamber of Commerce, as that's the amount that's been provided to the Chamber annually out of the Community Enhancement Fund, but the organization needs more money to keep the centre running.
Chamber President Paul Vacirca spoke to council and said the money helps run the visitor centre and its operations from the May Long Weekend through to September 30. However this year, the Chamber became concerned that the needs of the Centre were "not clearly understood by staff" as to the importance of the centre as a gateway to activity within the Pemberton Valley.
"At $2,500 annually, it is grossly under funded by local authorities and Area C of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District," Vacirca said, adding that 70 per cent of revenues from Chamber member fees to go operating the centre.
"I'd like to know what you think the value of that centre is to economic development, is that something that is not on your radar, do we need to present an education on numbers, statistics, visits and better lobby for funds in the future?"
Gimse responded that the visitor centre does provide an important service for the community but that she hadn't seen how much economic development the centre generates by bringing people into town.
Council ultimately amended the recommendation from $2,500 to $4,000 and approved the money unanimously.
Vacirca later announced in the meeting that he has stepped down as chamber president. Mark Blundell, owner of the Pemberton Valley Supermarket and a former Village councilor, is replacing him.