Big plans for Burns Lake Band’s Gathering Place

Burns Lake Band's Gathering Place renovations will hopefully start this fall.

Burns Lake Band’s Gathering Place renovations will hopefully start this fall.

The announcement comes after a forum style meeting was held between the Burns Lake Band, the Village of Burns Lake and School District 91 recently.

The forum was an initiative of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) Community to Community Forum program.

The meeting was facilitated by Nathan Edelson of 42nd Street Consulting, and the village say progress was made towards developing a concept plan for the space.

As reported in the Lakes District News edition of  April 27, 2011, the ultimate goal of the Burns Lake Band is to have the Gathering Place property returned to reserve land.

The property is currently owned by School District 91, however the Burns Lake Band hold a 99 year lease.

The property was originally expropriated from the band’s reserve in order to build the [old] Lakes District Secondary School. The Burns Lake Band say that if the property was to be returned to reserve land, funding for renovations would be far more accessible.

Burns Lake Band Chief Albert Gerow said that an agreement between the Burns Lake Band and the school district for the return of the property is still in the works. “It would take about a year to complete the process to return the land back to the band,” he said.

Forum participants came to a consensus that a major redevelopment and demolition of the majority of the existing Gathering Place building was the most economical option.

The vision for the new Gathering Place, as presented by Chief Gerow is a multi-use community centre, incorporating First Nations traditions in design and function, but serving the needs of all groups in the Burns Lake community, especially the youth and young families as well as community elders, however to move the project forward, funding is required.

Chief Gerow said that to date, no funding has been acquired for the project, other than local in kind contributions.

“All interested residents are welcome to join us in planning this important project,” added Chief Gerow. He went on to say that locals can participate in the project by being involved in the steering committee and participate in fundraising initiatives.

After funding is obtained, the first priority is to renovate the gymnasium and a part of the existing adjoining building. These will be transformed into a renewed gym, a commercial kitchen and multi-purpose rooms that will be available to the entire community.

It will also contain office space for the Burns Lake Band.

The remainder of the existing building will be demolished and a new building will be constructed on the site as funds become available. It is hoped that this will contain a swimming pool and activity rooms targeted to young people from throughout the area.

It will also including space for the performing and visual arts as well as a child care facility. Chief Gerow said the Burns Lake Band now hopes to reopen the Little Angels Day care which was closed in February this year due to a $300,000 operating deficit. “We hope to reopen the day care pending a large enough enrollment and staffing availability.”

The Burns Lake Band hopes to be able to start on the renovations this fall.