Fort St. James and Fraser Lake explore recreation, housing opportunities

From recreation to safe housing, two local groups are exploring social service developments this spring with B.C. government support.

Fraser Lake residents tie on snowshoes and skis to explore the Fraser Lake ice on B.C.’s Family Day — Feb. 13 this year.

From recreation to safe housing, two local groups are exploring social service developments this spring with B.C. government support.

The Village of Fraser Lake and Fort St. James’ Fireweed Collective Society are two of 77 rural B.C. municipalities and non-profit groups that received grant funding from the BC Rural Dividend to strengthen their communities.

In Fraser Lake with $10,000, the village will be conducting a feasibility study on walking trail and sidewalk upgrades within town.

“We’re trying to make things age-friendly and promote active transportation such as walking and running,” said the municipality’s CAO Rod Holland. “We have a number of sidewalks, but we don’t have circuits of walkways in Fraser Lake. We want to review, if people are walking, how they get to restaurants, shopping, medical facilities, and recreation like White Swan Park and Mouse Mountain hiking trails.

“Like many communities, we like to develop a longer term plan that we use as a guide for future development, and our pie in the sky is to have trails that go in a loop within the community, with some lighting and benches to improve the aesthetics of our trails.

“It’s about getting people outside and active, and if we develop them properly, there can be trails that can be used during all seasons, including winter usage like cross-country skiing.”

While the community is small enough to involve many residents walking, most are sharing the roads directly with vehicles.

“The feasibility study is for developing a plan to see what makes sense, developing sidewalks and providing some separation between automobiles and pedestrians,” Holland said. “We want to make sure we’re taking steps for the safety of our youth and seniors.”

In Fort St. James with $10,000, Fireweed Collective Society is determining the feasibility of a housing initiative targetted for women and children fleeing abuse, said the society’s executive director Brandi Hanterman.

Since last November, the society started a new program for second-stage housing that is supported by one-year of funding so far. Four furnished apartment units are available to women and children fleeing violence or wanting to make a change in life, said women’s wellness worker Rubi Samra.

The subsidized units’ rental rate is calculated based on income assistance amounts, and the program aims to transition women from income assistance to independent living.

The society also provides the 24-hour staffed safe home program, which provides eight beds for 30-day stays. Two of the beds, funded for up to three months per year, can be used for supportive recovery for women struggling with addictions and needed weekly support from a community health nurse or an addictions counsellor.

All women seeking support can also access free emotional support and empowerment from the society’s counselling program, as well as outreach support for those needing help with advocacy, housing, documents, transportation, and employment.

This is the second intake of the three-year $75-million BC Rural Dividend program, totalling $756,591 of grant funding this year, and 100 eligible project-development applications were received.