A packed room of local residents gave input into what they hope the future of the Upper Columbia Valley might look like during the Columbia Basin Trust’s (CBT) Have You Say workshop in Invermere last week.
The CBT has held similar sessions all around the Columbia Basin, seeking input from community residents as it reviews and refines its strategic priorities and figures out how best to use its expected increase in revenues.
“I’m really please with turnout; it’s the biggest we have so far,” said CBT chair Greg Deck to the more than 100 valley resident in gathered at the Invermere Lions Hall on Wednesday, January 21st.
He said the Trust’s projected revenue from its power projects will increase from $27 million to around $50 million.
“This represents a big opportunity. That’s why we’re asking for your input,” said Deck.
“All your input is going to guide where (the CBT) is going in the next five years,” said Golden-based CBT special initiatives manger Heather Mitchell, adding the workshop is part of the process the Trust goes through when it reviews its strategic priorities.
The entire process takes a full year, and includes information-gathering at workshops all across the basin, analyzing the data and then coming up with new action plans and strategic priorities.
At the Lions Hall, workshop participants sat in groups around tables, brainstormed answers to questions and then, table by table, shared their answers with the rest of the room.
The questions prompted participants to think about what they want to see in their community in the future and how it can happen. Most of the answers presented by participants centred around themes such as sustainability and smart growth, but a few were more specific.
Bill Swan presented his table’s desire for a locally-driven investment fund that would support projects in sectors such as local food and agriculture.
“We’re always looking outside the valley for funding; always the thinking of ‘bring the tourists in and we’ll be fine.’ And we are, and it usually works great. Until the tourists decide not to come,’ said Swan. “Why not pool our own financial resources and use that to drive projects here in the valley?”
Maria Kliavkoff presented her table’s view that valley needs much better public transportation.
“For us, it’s all about transportation. It’s hard to get from Brisco to Canal Flats to Invermere, especially if you have any kind of physical disability,” said Kliavkoff.
The idea of more regional c-ooperation and integration was a common theme for several tables, with two tables going as far as suggesting the valley’s multiple communities should amalgamate.
“Our idea is one big municipality for the valley,” said Dorothy Blunden, presenting her table’s views. “We need to stop each going in our own direction. If we band together, we can do transportation well, we can do sustainable business well. We can stop having money and resources flow from the valley to Victoria and then having to beg to get something back.”
In the question and answer period at the end of the workshop, Regional District of East Kootenay Area F director and CBT board director Wendy Booth said there is already a high degree of regional co-ordination among local government officials from the valley.
“We do co-operate quite well together already. If Canal Flats needs money for a project from Area F, we (Area F) will help them out, and they will do the same thing for us,” said Booth.
Several participants asked about ongoing operational funding from CBT for non-profit organizations in the valley.
“CBT does provide core and operational funding for organizations across the basin,” said CBT special initiative director Kindy Gosal, adding that the trust will provide clear direction on the topic soon.
“You will see something coming out of this process that succinctly addresses this issue,” said Gosal.
Another theme consistently mentioned by Invermere workshop participants was a desire for more community dialogue.