Transportation, communication, and senior housing were the three top community concerns identified by Fraser Lake residents last week.
Nearly 30 community members and leaders attended the federal infrastructure town hall meeting hosted by Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, Mayor Dwayne Lindstrom of Fraser Lake, and Director Mark Parker from the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako at the local Royal Canadian Legion branch on Mar. 1.
Local and inter-community transportation, though traditionally driven by provincial government, is where some residents would like federal funds to help fill current gaps.
Suggestions included a local prescheduled shuttle within town, as well as regular transportation between Prince Rupert and Prince George.
Residents said that improved options will facilitate senior transporation to Prince George for medical appointments, discourage hitchhiking. as well as provide a safe alternative for drivers travelling between cities on Highway 16 for work during winter.
“It’s like a smorgasbord for serial killers,” one resident said, while another referred to the snowy conditions of winter driving in the region. “I’m scared to drive on Highway 16 during winter time, even when you have the means and ability to travel.”
On communication, some residents would like better rural access — cell service is limited in Francois Lake area — as well as a faster Internet connection that will allow Fraser Lake to attract technology businesses and young people to the region.
A paramedic, involving with local seniors’ initiatives, raised the issue of senior housing as part of the dialogue on job creation and resident retention.
While palliative care is missing in Fraser Lake, housing for seniors can encourage families to stay in the community, rather than move to others with more resources, one resident said.
Referring to a recent report on the aging prison population of Canada, one resident suggested building a prison in Fraser Lake, taking advantage of available real estate in the area.
Other projects discussed during the meeting included waste treatment, an elevator to improve access at the community centre, as well as support for local arts and businesses through grants and summer students.
As the seventh out of eight town hall meetings in the region this season, Fraser Lake’s top three identified concerns were echoed by residents in other towns as well — with lack of housing stock a concern for non-seniors as well, Cullen said.
Though the provincial government is currently working with local governments on transportation strategies for Highway 16, there’s a clear role for the federal government as well, he said.
“We just don’t want to see people going missing anymore,” Cullen said. “This is a straight basic need.”
For Margaret Welowski, who lived in Fraser Lake for 50 years and attended the event with other participants as group, it was her first-time attendance to a town hall meeting.
“I just never came,” Welowski said. “I let the younger ones work at it.”
The main priority for her is transportation, as she does not drive, she said.
For Jesii Gammie, who bought property and moved to Fraser Lake with her husband three years ago, it’s also her first time participating in the government-hosted community discussion.
“I want to get out there and learn about the community,” Gammie said. “[The meeting] was very informative, and I talked to people I haven’t met in the three years I’ve been here.”
Her top priorities for Fraser Lake are transportation and waste management.
“I want to be able to use the lake in 20 years,” she said.
She would like to encourage more of the younger population to get involved with the community as well. “There’s not enough young people voting and paying attention to things that matter,” Gammie said.