The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District has purchased a 1.28-hectare parcel of land on Gates Lake in Area C at Birken for $540,000, with the aim of establishing a long-needed community centre and recreation facility.
The property features woods and open green spaces with unrestricted views of the lake, and was purchased "with the intention of developing it for community use and enjoyment," the SLRD said in a press release. The funds for the purchase came from Area C Parks and Amenities Funds.
The property is located on Pemberton Portage Road in the Poole Creek to D'Arcy corridor, north of Pemberton.
A second piece of land located across the road, originally purchased by the SLRD for similar reasons, was considered unsuitable.
"We went through a number of community consultation processes and what we heard loud and clear was concern with the house (on the land) and the fact that we would be taking a house and turning it into a recreational facility," Susie Gimse, the director of SLRD Area C, said in an interview.
"There is a strong need for a community gathering place, some form of community centre that will bring everyone together. We have a growing community, a lot of young families, a lot of seniors."
The other property will be put up for sale in early 2013. Its sale will offset the cost of development on the new site.
Gimse said the purchase means a new opportunity to plan a purpose-built recreational facility, with the first phase of development being to ready the site as a park and leisure space, including the possible repurposing of an existing cabin to provide amenities.
"It's a great location, really good size and there is no slope," Gimse said.
SLRD staff is now working with local authorities on upgrading servicing to the site. Lake access may be made easier following a meeting with CN Rail about developing a controlled crossing of the rail line between the property and Gates Lake, she added.
"There appears to be an indication from CN that they will work with us to find a solution, in terms of a safe crossing," she said.
A draft recreation study into ideas for recreation and community programming for corridor residents and including the results of a survey is expected to be available at the end of February 2013, following a final opportunity for community consultation at the end of January.
Gimse said 480 surveys had been sent out to residents and property owners in the corridor.
"That gives you an indication as to how many people are here. And it wasn't just the mailboxes between Poole Creek and D'Arcy that we sent surveys to; we actually went to the (electoral) roll and made sure that if you owned property out here and received mail in Pemberton or Vancouver you received a survey," she said.
"It gave us a better sense of the population and was a good exercise for us.... Obviously, there is more work to be done, but until we determine where we're at it is still a great park."