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Outdoor Learning Centre lease enters final phase

Regional district agreement expands area for School District 47 usage
EXPANDED AREA: This map details the expanded area the Outdoor Learning Centre will occupy under a proposed new lease between School District 47 and Powell River Regional District, including the location of entry gates. Contributed graphic

After a year of hammering out the details, a formal lease agreement for the Outdoor Learning Centre at Haywire Bay Regional Park is going into its final stages.

Powell River Regional District manager of community services Mike Wall presented an update on the lease to the regional district committee of the whole on Thursday, November 10.

“The lease will enable [School District 47] to expand its program offerings and have some really nice forested area for trails and education,” said Wall.

Negotiations to expand the space in the park for the school district have gone well over the past year, he said.

The need for the lease was highlighted by the regional district board last year after reports of trees being cut outside the learning centre’s boundaries and development occurring inside riparian areas.

The 10-year lease for $1 per year will almost double the land under the control of the school district for use of students at the Outdoor Learning Centre, said School District 47 secretary-treasurer Steve Hopkins.

“It makes sense moving forward that there is a formal lease,” said Hopkins. “Regional district staff have been good and incorporated most of what we wanted.”

The school district does not have plans for more construction, but will open the area up for an interpretive education walking trail, said Hopkins.

“The reason for the expanded area is not tied to any definitive building expansion, but driven by what we think are more intuitive boundaries for the groups when they’re up there,” he added.

Boundaries will extend east to the road that provides access to Haywire Bay campground.

Currently, a gate on the access road to the learning centre is controlled by the school district, but the decision to take it down is stalling progress on the final lease agreement.

Wall said the regional district is looking at removing the gate after BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations expressed concerns over restricted access to a barge ramp located next to the learning centre.

One option for the regional district is to offer the gate to the school district so it can be installed at the driveway of the learning centre.

“Our recommendation is that we remove the gate from where it currently is and offer it to the school district so they can install it on the agreement boundary,” said Wall.

Wall added that he would like to have a meeting with the ministry and school district to talk about options that would make the arrangement work.

“I’m confident that we’re going to be able to do this,” said Wall. “We ended up with a great working relationship with the school district and the Outdoor Learning Centre through the process.”

Hopkins said, regardless of the decision on the gate, the school district plans to install its own gate to the centre.

“We’d prefer if the existing gate remains because it deters unwanted traffic outside of business hours,” said Hopkins. “We appreciate that it is the regional district’s purview to manage the location of that gate and hopefully they can consider our recommendations.”

The lease is in its final stages and Wall said the plan is to have the regional district board sign off on the lease at its December board meeting.

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