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VANOC presents $750,000 sport legacy trust fund to Squamish

District will seek public input on how to spend money



While Squamish's dream of realizing legacies from the 2010 Games has faded in recent years, Squamish council is feeling upbeat now after Olympic officials presented Squamish a $750,000 trust fund for sport and community facilities.

"I'm sure that VANOC (the 2010 Vancouver Organizing Committee) is motivated by making sure that Squamish does realize that it is appreciated and (it is) hoping for our support in programs like volunteers," said Squamish Mayor Greg Gardner.

Last fall the community voiced its frustrations at a public meeting, claiming that promised Olympic benefits were not being delivered - including getting a new ferry terminal, a cruise ship to house media or Olympic workers, and making Squamish a transportation hub for spectators. At one point Squamish even offered to house the Paralympic hockey and curling events after the facility became too expensive to build in Whistler.

Gardner acknowleged that there was history between Squamish and VANOC, but he believes the money, given at a time of fiscal restraint by Olympic organizers, is a recognition of the town's growing importance to the success of the 2010 Games.

"I am very pleased that VANOC has acknowledged the role of the community of Squamish in the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games," he said.

"We are half way between the two major venue areas (Vancouver and Whistler) and the Games have significant impact on our community, and we have the opportunity to positively influence them as well. VANOC is acknowledging that and making this contribution to our community."

The funds will be held in trust while community input is sought on how the money should be spent. The District of Squamish will make the final decision on how money is allocated.

Gardner said there is no timeline on the decision, but said that the money is targeted for facilities. While the decision is made the interest can be used appropriately.

He also pointed to other important legacies Squamish can take advantage of, including the upgrade to the Sea to Sky highway, a new fibre optic line, and its proximity to the Whistler Nordic Centre.

"The Sea to Sky highway improvement project would not be happening at this time if were not for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games," said Gardner.

"Whistler Olympic Park is an incredible legacy for our entire region. I think it is one of the premier Nordic sports venues in the world and there are a lot of growth opportunities in those sports."

The attention the area is getting along with these legacies is also impacting the growth of the area, with more people looking to call the community home said Gardner.

Some of those new residents are Canadian Olympic hopefuls.

The fund was announced by Dan Doyle, the special envoy appointed to Squamish by VANOC following the community's vocal criticism of Games organizers.

"Squamish is a critical community to the staging of the Games," said Doyle in a release.

"This partnership solidifies our commitment to work closely with Squamish to ensure the Games are of benefit to the community and that residents and businesses can make a real contribution to the Games success."

It is estimated that 80 businesses in Squamish have received contracts from VANOC totaling $15.6 million overall.