Time running out to partner on Walnut Park $1.5-million public space

“This opportunity comes around once. You won’t see another one probably built 25-30 years, if that.”

Fewer than 20 people showed up to a meeting meant to help decide the future of a public space worth $1.5 million at the new Walnut Park Elementary School coming soon.

A repeated refrain from Bulkley Valley School District 54 (SD54) secretary treasurer Dave Margerm, who was facilitating the meeting, and superintendent Chris van der Mark was the need for other organizations or businesses to step up quickly with cash if full advantage can be taken to use or expand the 486 square metres set aside by the Province for public use. The current gym at Walnut Park is 410 square metres.

“This opportunity comes around once. You won’t see another one probably built 25-30 years, if that. So trying to maximize it, that’s why you hope there are people out there who are listening — maybe people do want to partner up. It’s a chance whether it be industry, whether it be private, whatever, to go, ‘maybe in the long term it would be best for x.’

“OK, well what does that look like? Anything over 486 [square metres] is going to take more money. But in the absence of that, that’s fine. We still get a really cool, much better school,” said van der Mark at the meeting.

When asked, he said SD54 has not actively sought out partnerships or sponsorships. Margerm said they would be, but the timeline is short with plans needing to start being in place by October for trustees to decide what to build.

Members of the Smithers District Chamber of Commerce, Smithers Community Services Association, and Mayor Taylor Bachrach and Coun. Greg Brown were in attendance to listen and offer some ideas.

Chamber manager Heather Gallagher, with the Chamber’s music strategy presented recently to Smithers Town council fresh in mind, suggested a sound proof room good for practice may be a good idea.

Bachrach was also in an artistic frame of mind, bringing up the fact that some groups were disappointed that the newly planned cultural centre only has room in the first phase for a library and gallery, and no space for dancing or musical performances. The next step for that project is a business case expected in September, shortly before the October municipal elections.

Bachrach said the Town is locked in for capital spending with the cultural centre and won’t be able to chip in, but that a space smaller than the Della Herman Theatre but larger than the Old Church is desired for things like concerts.

Popular choices that SD54 is hearing from others are focused around an athletic facility or daycare space. The Office of the Wet’suwet’en has also approached about using some space to integrate cultural learning.

Anyone wishing to give their opinion on what they would like to see as the public space can email Margerm at dmargerm@sd54.bc.ca.

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