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Powell River receives climate action award

Zunga Bus project recognized at Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention
GIVEN DISTINCTION: City of Powell River was awarded a climate and energy action award at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention in Vancouver. At the awards presentation [from left] are Megan Lohmann, acting CEO of the Community Energy Association, city councillors Trina Isakson and Rob Southcott, former city councillor CaroleAnn Leishman, city councillor Jim Palm, mayor Ron Woznow, Aman Singh, parliamentary secretary for environment, Rik Logtenberg, chair of the Community Energy Association, and city councillors Cindy Elliott and Earl Almeida.

City of Powell River’s Zunga bus project won a climate and energy action award at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention in Vancouver from September 18 to 22.

Mayor Ron Woznow said the award was presented to him as mayor and he invited all of city council to join him for the presentation.

Woznow said former Powell River councillor CaroleAnn Leishman was in attendance at the UBCM and was invited up for the presentation because she was instrumental in the establishment of the Zunga Bus in the community.

“She played a key part in that aspect on council,” said Woznow.

He said that as the city transitions from a mill town, every opportunity the city has to demonstrate that it is innovative, such as with the Zunga Bus, is important. The city is willing to work with people with creative ideas, such as a whole range of potential investors, and new people coming here, whether they are retiring or in their 30s, he added.

“It’s all part of branding,” said Woznow.

He said this is part of city council’s strategic priorities.

Woznow said he is proud of the award from the Community Energy Association (CEA) and the accomplishment of those who brought the Zunga Bus to fruition. He said it is also important that city council supported an extension of the project beyond its pilot phase, even though BC Transit did not become a monetary supporter in 2023.

“It demonstrated that council can make decisions to support initiatives,” said Woznow. “The reason why that is important is we are going to have to make a lot of decisions in the next year. Whether it is city properties for low-cost housing or accommodating what new businesses are requiring to come in here, we are demonstrating that we can make decisions. We are going to have to make some astute, well-thought-through decisions, so in two or three years, we are seeing more accommodations, more businesses, and hopefully, good use of the old mill site.”

According to a writeup in the CEA August 2023 newsletter special edition for climate and energy action awards, the Zunga Bus project is addressing a longtime challenge in delivering reliable transit in smaller communities, providing service in low-density areas. The write-up stated this has led to long routes and infrequent service that can result in hour-long trips that would otherwise be covered in five minutes in a car.

Powell River’s Zunga Bus, featuring a 12-seat van, is BC’s first on-demand transit service that is allowing the city to focus its transit efforts on one, streamlined route through main corridors, the writeup stated.

For more than 25 years, CEA has been inviting municipalities, regional districts and Indigenous communities around BC to nominate local projects and initiatives for a climate and energy action award. This year, 25 projects were nominated. Each was reviewed by a group of judges who have diverse expertise related to community energy and local climate action, with the winners announced at the UBCM convention.

This is the second time in three years that City of Powell River has won this award. The city was honoured with a similar distinction in 2020 for its corporate climate action strategy, recognizing achievements in 2019. The city continues its progressive actions toward greater sustainability and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs, according to a media release from the city.

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