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Four local projects receive over $1.6 million in economic recovery projects

Mountain biking society will upgrade ski hill chairlift for summer operation in 2022
The Smithers Mountain Biking Association plan to upgrade 50 km of trails this summer thanks to a grant from the Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program. (Contributed photo)

“Could you imagine riding from your house in town, up and over and all around the mountain and back?”

That vision from Smithers Mountain Biking Association (SMBA) vice president Jaksun Grice is likely years away, but thanks to a Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program grant, it may be one step closer to realization.

“Something like that would be an absolute showcase for the Bulkley Valley,” Grice said.

SMBA received $596,400 for upgrades to the organization’s 50 km of trails on the mountain and, in partnership with Hudson Bay Mountain Resort (HBMR), make the ski hill’s chair lift mountain bike friendly.

“To get money to upgrade and enhance our existing network is really significant, so we’re extremely stoked and excited for this year,” Grice said.

The projects will get underway in May with $186,000 earmarked for trails and $410,400 going toward chair lift upgrades.

“The funding will be used to add purpose-built “tray” attachments to the chairlift to enable the easy loading/unloading and transport of mountain bikes to the alpine, where it will improve access to some of SMBA’s existing downhill trails that already exist within HBMR boundaries,” SMBA said in a press release. “Summer operations will also provide easy access for hikers, trail runners and sightseers to the alpine surrounding the iconic feature of Hudson Bay Mountain.”

They anticipate the chairlift being open for summer operations in 2022.

The two organizations identified a number short-term and medium term benefits including seasonal employment this summer and enhancing Smithers as a mountain biking tourism destination.

Mountain biking is probably one of the biggest tourist draws in the valley, so anything that expands that is a boon economically for the town,” Grice said.

In the long-term, the projects are progress toward the SMBA’s master plan of a system that circumnavigates the mountain.

“These projects also serve as important stepping stones for the realization of future goals for both organizations that will continue to stimulate increased tourism with its attendant positive impact on local retail, hospitality and tourism businesses and services,” the release stated.

Three other local projects also benefited from CERIP funding. The Town of Smithers received almost $1 million for phase 1 of its Ice Plant Consolidation and Heat Recovery Project.

Phase 1 will consolidate the Civic Centre and new arena ice plants. Phase 2 and phase 3, for which further funding is required, will bring the curling rink into the consolidation and install heat capture technology for the Bulkley Valley Pool.

The ice plant project is one the town has been working on for a long time and was ready to go, but just in need of money, which was the kind of thing CERIP was looking for, said Smithers mayor Gladys Atrill.

“There’s a long list of projects that don’t have funding so every one we can get moving ahead is exciting,” she said. “It just means efficiency going forward for how we operate those arenas. They’re expensive to run and anything we can do to make that more efficient and still provide the service to citizens is great.”

In a report to council, staff recommended running the two arenas normally for this summer and completing the project when the ice comes out in the spring of 2022. This is due to the fact the timeline is too short to complete the design and acquire equipment this year according to a consultant.

The Smithers Central Park Building Society also received $20,632 for exterior work on the heritage building that houses the Smithers Art Gallery and Bulkley Valley Museum.

And finally, Telkwa is getting $26,674 to rebuild its boat launch which was disrupted by upgrades to the village’s dike system.

Thom Barker

About the Author: Thom Barker

After graduating with a geology degree from Carleton University and taking a detour through the high tech business, Thom started his journalism career as a fact-checker for a magazine in Ottawa in 2002.
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