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Pemberton Friendship Bridge project gets $500,000

BikeBC grant another step in long-running endeavour to link Pemberton and Lil'Wat
Project funds SLRD Area C Director Russell Mack, Village of Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman, Lil'wat Chief Dean Nelson and West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy celebrate a $500,000 grant from BikeBC. Photo submitted

A $500,000 grant from BikeBC takes the key partners in the Friendship Trail and Bridge a step closer to reality for a community project that's been in the works for years.

The dream is to create a connecting route away from the highway that would link the Village of Pemberton (VOP) and the Lil'wat Nation; the next step will be to assess further construction for the bridge, and the trail.

The BikeBC money for the bridge project is in addition to $500,000 from Innergex in 2014; a $369,000 gas-tax grant from the federal government in 2012; and about $50,000 in other community contributions.

The Friendship Trail project has so far received $120,000 from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation; $100,000 from the province; $71,343 from BikeBC; and $30,000 from the federal government gas-tax fund.

Lil'wat Nation Chief Dean Nelson said he's pleased with the funding announcement.

"The trail will expand both transportation and recreation opportunities for everyone in the region," he said.

"It will also create greater safety for those travelling by foot, bicycle or horseback. People will no longer have to risk sharing a highway with vehicles travelling 80 km/h or more. Instead, they'll enjoy peaceful travel and fantastic views of Lil'wat Traditional Territory."

VOP Mayor Mike Richman said: "The idea was to build the project without going to the taxpayers for their money. This (funding) should close that gap."

Richman explained that the VOP is looking after the bridge project, while the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) is looking after the trail project. The project is a joint initiative between the SLRD, VOP and Lil'wat Nation.

"It's been a patient process that we haven't let go of to keep gathering those funds and now that it looks like that funding gap is closing. It's really exciting," Richman said.

The trail and bridge would connect the VOP to the community of Mt. Currie safely, and allow users to walk, ride or travel on horseback.

"There's a symbolism to it — I believe it makes another kind of connection between the communities," said Richman.

"I live out towards Mt. Currie and I wouldn't let my kids ride their bikes to school because there's no shoulder on the highway. I wouldn't let my 10-year-old do that.

"This will allow people to travel back and forth between the communities safely, which is huge."

Said West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy: "(The) project will help the region realize the long-standing goal of connecting Pemberton and Mt. Currie through a safe and accessible non-motorized trail that will support active lifestyles, provide alternatives to the car and literally build a bridge between neighbours."