By Lisa Skubovius
Put your mouth where the money is.
All Elk Valley residents are being called on to voice their opinions on how $600,000 in funding from the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) can best be spent over the next three years. The objective of the funds is to implement valley-wide projects or activities that align with CBT’s mandate “to create a legacy of social, economic and environmental well-being and to achieve greater self-sufficiency for present and future generations.”
What projects or activities will come to fruition is up to community members of the Elk Valley who can provide their input during several phases. The first, idea-gathering phase ends on Friday, November 1, so residents are urged to voice their opinions online immediately at www.thinkelkvalley.com, or by handing in a consultation sheet at City Hall or their District Office.
Only a few dozen Elk Valley citizens attended the six community consultation open house meetings in Fernie, Sparwood, and Elkford last week. At the second open house in Fernie, Mayor Mary Guiliano emphasized the importance of valley-wide participation.
“It is really important to hear your ideas,” said Guiliano. “We encourage everyone to fill out the paper or go online to do so. We need your suggestions. It’s not up to the committee to set the priorities — it’s up to people in the communities to voice their opinions and set the priorities for these funds.”
To date, there have been approximately 150 citizens who have filled out the ten-minute online survey.
“It’s very simple to do,” said consultant Jeff Zukiwsky. “We definitely want to hear from people during this phase and the next.”
Suggestions raised at the October 22 Fernie open house include improving transit and environmental protection, creating programs that bridge the rural and urban divide, hiring an Elk Valley Social Programmer, building a paved trail from Elkford to Fernie, and hosting a valley-wide festival to foster connectivity between the communities.
Once the idea-gathering phase is complete, the suggestions will be compiled and citizens will be able to vote online at www.thinkelkvalley.com to set the priorities that will guide how the $200,000 per year Elk Valley Community Directed Funds are spent. All community members will be eligible to vote during the second phase, regardless of whether or not they participated in the first phase of collaboration.
From there, a committee made up of the mayors of the Valley, the director for Electoral Area A, four community members and a CBT representative will develop a Community Priorities Plan based on the results of the online voting.
“We’re really excited and looking forward to working with the communities and creating something positive for everyone in the Elk Valley,” Guiliano summarized. If the process is successful, there is a chance that CBT will continue this funding beyond the current three years.
Learn more at www.thinkelkvalley.com.