Feds, province hand out $1.1 million 

Funding will help complete Valley Trail to Function Junction

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The federal and provincial governments have rolled out a red carpet of funding in the Sea to Sky region.

West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky MP John Weston joined West Vancouver-Garibaldi MLA Joan McIntyre in Whistler Thursday morning to announce a total of $1.1 million in funding that's coming to the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

First up, Weston presented a giant cheque with $375,000 in federal and provincial funding to be put towards completing the Valley Trail between Spring Creek and Function Junction, money that both governments hope will encourage people to leave their cars at home.

"It will encourage residents to walk or cycle, something that's very close to my heart," Weston said. "I'd like to underline that this is certainly not John Weston's money, it's certainly not Joan McIntyre's money, it's not the government's money, it's Canadians' money. We are only stewards for sacred trust and I am delighted that this is going to such a good cause."

The Valley Trail currently extends from Emerald Estates to Spring Creek, just outside the elementary school in that neighbourhood. Extending the trail past Spring Creek will link Whistler Village with Cheakamus Crossing and the Sea to Sky Trail, according to a news release.

Dave Patterson, manager of park and village operations for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, said the current budget under the municipality's five-year capital plan is about $815,000 and that the RMOW is on the hook for the rest of the cash outside the grant. That doesn't include the costs associated with lighting the trail.

He added, however, that there will be a new budget this year after design and engineering on the trail have been completed.

"We also have a budget this year to do the design and engineering so until we complete that design and engineering, that's a placeholder and we will have a much more detailed number when that's complete," he said. "I hope to have included the lighting in the next phase."

The money is coming out of Towns for Tomorrow, a five-year, $71 million program announced by Premier Gordon Campbell in 2006 to assist smaller communities and regional districts with infrastructure projects. It has a maximum provincial contribution of $400,000 for a given project.

Next up, McIntyre announced $678,821 for the RMOW out of B.C.'s Strategic Community Investment Fund, a program that seeks to get money to communities quicker, in order to give them "greater certainty and improved financial flexibility," according to a news release.

The money includes $442,573 in Small Community Grant Funding to help Whistler provide basic services and $236,248 from the Traffic Fine Revenue Sharing program to help with policing and community-based safety programs.

"The premier announced at UBCM several years ago that we would be returning all traffic fine dollars to the municipalities," McIntyre said. "So it's sort of not a good thing because it's traffic fines but on the other hand, it does come back to your communities."

She added that the community grant funding was just a first installment, and that another would come through for the municipality in July and again in July of 2010.

"We just wanted to make sure that those funds are coming in and you can use them for your planning purposes," she said. "They're funds that we pledged a couple of years ago to double because we know that in smaller communities in particular, with smaller tax bases, have big infrastructure bills."

Also announced at Thursday's event was an Infrastructure Planning Grant of $7,500 to help Whistler study rainwater capture and reuse for all of Whistler's municipal buildings. This fund helps municipalities design and develop sustainable infrastructure.

Other "green" funds included $10,337 from the province's Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program, which provides local governments with funds to offset the carbon taxes they pay for fossil fuel purchases.

"I think it was just this UBCM, the premier pledged to return all the monies that municipalities pay in the carbon levy," McIntyre said. "So we can prove to municipalities that it's totally revenue neutral."

Other funding announced Thursday included $30,000 in provincial Gaming Grants. Two-thirds of that money will go to the Myrtle Philip Parent Advisory Council to replace outdated playground equipment. One-third will to go to the Rotary Club of Whistler to help build a playground at the Head of the Lake School in Skatin, a community in In-SHUCK-ch Nation territory.

The Rotary Club of Whistler has long been a supporter of the Head of the Lake School, helping it establish a library, computer laboratory and other amenities over the past decade. The club expects to build the playground starting in June or July with the help of volunteers, according to president David Oakes.

"If it was done professionally it would take about two days," he said. "Done with volunteers, unknown, I'm guessing about eight days, maybe four weekends or something like that. It's quite a haul up there."


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