Fort St. John visitor centre study adopted

·2 min read

The City of Fort St. John will soon be seeking public opinion on the development of a new visitor centre.

On Monday, city council adopted in principle a feasibility study on moving the current visitor centre from the Pomeroy Sport Centre to a number of locations identified at or near Centennial Park, or to a plot of city-owned land on the Alaska Highway.

The study estimated the cost to build a 9,856-square-foot centre on the highway at $16 million, with operating costs estimated at $1.37 million over three years.

Mayor Lori Ackerman spoke in favour of adopting the study, and starting a conversation about moving forward.

“I’ve always found visitor information centres to be more of a residential information centre,” Ackerman said. “How do we set this up in way that it really does celebrate Fort St. John, and provide activities and events that really enhance the quality of life in Fort St John? And if we have visitors that come by and are involved in it, then that’s great.”

The visitor centre's current home at the sport centre was moved in 2013 from 100 Street and 96 Avenue, where the new festival plaza is today. The move, at the time, was supposed to be temporary.

The new feasibility study from Expedition Management Consulting and Urban Arts Architecture was completed over the last year with the help of provincial funding, and outlined four potential sites for the centre and their designs.

Public space, about 5,064 square feet, was proposed to include a reception and visitor information area, an interpretive/discovery space and play zone, retail and community display, a cafe, meeting space, and storage. The rest was proposed for administrative and custodial space.

Coun. Trevor Bolin was the only other councillor to speak to the matter on Monday, noting that news of the study proposals “blew up” on social media over the weekend. Bolin thanked the consultants, and said the project is now in the city’s lap to build out its scope for public consultation.

“Honestly, there were so many ideas, hundreds and hundreds of ideas, of people commenting on what this could be, and go from there,” Bolin said. “I think we’d be short-sighted to take it like it is.”

The city owns eight acres of land along the Alaska Highway at Station 44, which was initially bought and set aside in 2010-11 for an interpretive/visitor centre called Saa Maa that was being planned at the time. That plan was eventually shelved.

tsummer@ahnfsj.ca

Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News

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