Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons has indicated that Powell River will be able to recover more quickly from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic with help from close to $1.4 million in new funding for local infrastructure projects.
“We’ve all missed being able to share our beautiful part of the world with visitors over the past year, and these investments today will make sure we can put our best foot forward when it’s safe to welcome them back,” stated Simons in a media release. “We are working hard to build a COVID-19 economic recovery that works for everyone. That means investing in things that people use and enjoy in areas like tourism and heritage infrastructure that are so critical to our economic future.”
In the Powell River region, funding is going to three projects, including: Powell River Film Society – preservation and restoration of the Historic Patricia Theatre ($103,869); phase one of the Powell River Airport runway expansion ($1,000,000); and Powell River Educational Services Society (PRESS) – Powell Forest Canoe Route revitalization project ($306,778).
“The Patricia Theatre has hosted Powell Riverites and visitors since 1913 and needs upgrades to withstand the elements,” stated Simons. “As the only theatre in the city, and as the longest continuously running theatre in Canada, the province’s investment in its upkeep is essential and welcome.
“The Powell Forest Canoe Route, long an attraction for students, adventurers and backcountry enthusiasts, is in need of upgrades. This investment in the trails and improved signage will ensure that it continues to attract locals and visitors for years to come.”
This funding is coming through BC’s CERIP (Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program), which is providing $100 million in one-time infrastructure grants for impactful projects across the province. These projects will improve community economic resilience, develop tourism infrastructure, support unique heritage infrastructure, and support economic recovery for rural communities, the release stated.
The funding is part of BC’s $10 billion COVID-19 response to help support people, businesses, communities and critical services, and build a strong economic recovery that works for everyone.
Powell River Film Society executive director Gary Shilling said the society had submitted a grant application for $600,000, preparing a list of everything the theatre needs in the five-year maintenance plan. He said the grant focuses on securing the building envelope, which is how the society began its fundraising to patch the roof. The roof patching will continue, there will be double-pane windows installed, and the canopy torn down in the 1970s will be replaced. The theatre will also be painted. Enhancements will begin later this year.
Shilling said the film society is moving toward ownership of the theatre, which is still in the works, and the need is more pressing than ever.
It has nearly been a year since motion pictures were last exhibited in the Patricia but the society remains committed to owning and exhibiting at the theatre again. Shilling said the grant from the province is an endorsement of the model the society is proposing to increase community engagement.
“We’re more convinced than ever that having the film society own the theatre will be great for the filmmaking community, the film lover and it’s going to be great for youth, too,” said Shilling. “The grant is very exciting for us and validates our mission, which is to preserve the theatre and to get the community involved. However, it doesn’t change our need for people to step forward and support us in our efforts by donating to our cause.”
PRESS is pleased to have been awarded funds from the province to complete needed infrastructure and trail upgrades on the Powell Forest Canoe Route.
According to project manager Hugh Prichard, PRESS was able to quickly mobilize and respond to the call for proposals, which is anticipated to benefit many local users of the camping areas and trail system, as well as those visiting the region.
“This is an exciting time for the community,” stated Prichard. “With these funds we aim to continue to employ local community members in various improvements aimed at elevating the user experience on this popular destination trail network.”
In past years, PRESS has employed local students to assist with the maintenance on the route through work-based training programs.
Items such as way-finding and interpretive signage, upgrades to specific remote campsites, improvements on challenging trail sections, as well as creation of a proper staging area at the start of the route, are all included in the planning.
Prichard stated that as more trail infrastructure is built in the community by a variety of user groups, an additional component PRESS would like to support is creation of a cohesive plan, which takes a strategic approach to managing sustainability of the areas’ major destination trails.
“We look forward to engaging with our local community, from the users, trail builders, tourism-related organizations and business, to our regional governing bodies – Tla’amin Nation and qathet Regional District,” stated Prichard. “As well, we look forward to having students, who are looking for trail building training opportunities, engage in this exciting project.”
Detailed planning begins in May, with the project anticipated to take approximately two years to complete.