Burns Lake Band working towards full occupancy at the Gathering Place

A full occupancy permit will allow the band to host gatherings and expand economic opportunities in the community.

The Burns Lake Band are in the process of receiving a full occupancy permit for the Gathering Place.

According to Burns Lake Band Chief Albert Gerow, the full occupancy permit will allow the band to host First Nations conferences and gatherings at the site, and expand economic opportunities in the community.

“We are really excited and we are nearly there,” he said, adding that in order to have the permit issued they need to have a final inspection of the fire alarm and sprinkler system conducted.

Wes Sam Burns Lake Band councillor said in the past the Burns Lake Band has been operating using temporary permits for the Gathering Place, which they would have to have issued by the Village of Burns Lake.

With a permanent occupancy permit they would be free to organize events without applying for a permit.

“It gives us more freedom,” Sam said.

Sheryl Worthing, chief administrative officer for the village confirmed that the Burns Lake Band are working towards a permanent occupancy permit.

Sam said the 22 Annual General Assembly for Carrier Sekani Family Services conference that was hosted by the Burns Lake Band at the Gathering Place is just a taste of what is to come.

“We will be able to host events like this that will bring in money to Burns Lake. First Nations tourism is big business and we want to be part of that in a big way.”

He said chief and council have been working towards a permanent occupancy permit for a long time. “Now we just have a few minor things to do, so this is good news.”

They are also still working with School District 91 to redevelop the Gathering Place.

“We are still intending to build a conference and meeting centre and hope that we can secure future funding. The  building wouldn’t be just for First Nations use. The municipality could host events …. perhaps something like a North Central Local Government Association conferences  …. it would bring people to Burns Lake.”

He said they are actively searching for funding for the Gathering Place and have almost completed a feasibility study and business plan.

“Right now we are solely focused on developing a business base,” Sam said.

He also said the Rainbow Motel gas station development is moving forward.

“We are looking at a motel development on that site and hope to start construction of a motel this fall and hope to be open next season.”

The motel would not be a franchise, but rather a Burns Lake Band initiative.

“We are working with the owner of Treasure Cove Hotel in Prince George. He is helping us with the design and management aspect.”

Sam said the motel will start out with 40 rooms and eventually be developed into a 100 room, three to four story building.

“The Burns Lake Band is pushing hard to be an economic driver in town and I know that we will be,” Sam added.

They are also looking into building an interpretive centre on the same site and plan for the Gathering Place, the motel and the interpretive centre to all go hand in hand in attracting large conferences to Burns Lake.

“We are working with multiple funding partners for this project, but they can’t be mentioned yet,” Sam said, adding that the Burns Lake Band is excited to be a part of economic development initiatives in Burns Lake.