The former Lake Kathlyn Elementary School may have a new lease on life.                                 Josh Casey photo

The former Lake Kathlyn Elementary School may have a new lease on life. Josh Casey photo

Lake Kathlyn Elementary could be home to agricultural research facility

Coast Field Forest Cooperative asks SD54 to rent or buy the property

An agricultural group in the Bulkley Valley is proposing to start up an agriculture research and trial facility at the vacant Lake Kathlyn School.

The Coast Field Forest Cooperative is looking into using the former elementary school just northwest of Smithers as an agricultural research facility along with other combined collaborative uses because the facility offers more space than they would need.

However, cooperative director Darcy Repen said the space is ideal.

“Lake Kathlyn [School] sits on 10 acres of land, of which a substantial amount is cleared and usable,” he said. “The space itself can be converted to a research or education facility; it also has high speed internet.”

Repen said they’ve sent over a proposal to Bulkley Valley School District 54 (SD54), the owners of the property, with other possible shared uses for the building like a French School, a community workshop, or folk school.

“We want to make sure we can maximize the efficiency usage of [the facility],” he added.

There was once an agricultural research and trialing facility before in the Bulkley Valley but it closed down many years ago. Coast Field Forest Cooperative thinks it’s time for a new one.

“There is a need to reestablish a research and trial facility in the valley,” said Repen. “Particularly as we see shifts in national and international markets for produce as well as some of the stressors in California with their water issues. And climate change, it could be somewhat of a beneficial thing for us here in the valley.”

Repen added there are more producers coming into the valley.

“There are large opportunities for agriculture development here and we are starting to move beyond the cattle and livestock industry and into more intensive fruit and vegetable growing,” he said.

The idea is still in the very early stages of development but SD54 will see the proposal on an upcoming school board meeting. The group is open to either renting or purchasing the property.

Repen added that even if the idea to use Lake Kathlyn School doesn’t pan out, the group is still interested in finding a space for the research and trial facility.