Upper Skeena Recreation Centre Facebook photo

$686,000 for Upper Skeena Rec Centre Gitxsan bioheat

The massive new Rec Centre will be biomass heated, saving cost and reducing emissions.

Federal Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi announced last Wednesday during a visit to Kitimat over $686,000 in funding for a Gitxsan bioheat project in Hazelton.

Under the lead of Gitxsan Energy Inc., an Indigenous-owned business of the Gitxsan Nation, the funding will support the adoption of forest-based biomass heating for the Upper Skeena Recreational Centre.

The Ministry said under the project, forest-based biomass will replace propane as the heating fuel, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 255 tonnes a year in the recreation complex. The project will also create two full-time biomass harvesting jobs and 12 temporary construction jobs in the local Gitxsan community.

Heart of the Hazeltons chair Peter Newberry said this summer that using the biomass system could save $50,000 a year in operating costs.

“The Gitxsan people are very pleased to have the Government of Canada’s support for such an important local project. The new Upper Skeena Recreation Centre will fill a critical community need, and the use of bio heat continues our focus on the utilization of local resources. This highly advanced technology reduces greenhouse gas emissions while cleaning up the forest floor and consuming the abundant woody biomass throughout Gitxsan territory, and this in turn cuts forest fire hazards. This project has stimulated three more GHG-reducing initiatives, and we may see more to come,” said Gitxsan Development Corp president and CEO Rick Connors in a media release.

The massive $16-million centre that will house a rink, fitness room, gym, and a community rental space. It will also have spaces for community programming in various areas such as wellness and personal development. It will seat up to 500 spectators on heated bleachers.

READ: Tour of Upper Skeena Rec Centre

The rec centre is a rare example of many different levels and types of governments and organizations working together on a such a large project. The Regional District of Kitimat Stikine will own the facility, but it was put together with funding and efforts from all the First Nations and municipalities in the area, plus volunteers from the Heart of the Hazeltons, and the federal and provincial governments.

The School of Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia is being asked to help design a health tracking process to measure improvements in the area, and to help design a transportation system that may link with the Highway 16 transportation system and add other elements.

The wood-based construction with glulam beams is a prototype approved by the previous provincial government that can be used for future arenas built in B.C.

“As I go around the Province I can spread the word about a project like this when communities are looking at replacing facilities, and also at the Cabinet table when we’re talking about hospitals or schools or community facilities like this,” said Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson during a summer tour of the construction site.

This is the first funding announced under the Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities Program. The goal of the program is to reduce the reliance of rural and remote communities on fossil fuel for heat and power, with particular emphasis on Indigenous communities. Projects like this are meant to reduce the use of fossil fuels through the installation or retrofit of proven forest-based biomass heating options in communities or for industrial applications.

“This project will directly benefit the community through good middle-class jobs and is a great example of how we are working with Indigenous partners to create forest-based economic development opportunities, all while helping Canada reach its climate change goals,” said Sohi in a release.

The 5,050-sq.-ft. Upper Skeena Recreational Centre is scheduled to open this season.

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