By Keith McNeill
“The District of Clearwater is situated on the Yellowhead Highway #5, approximately 125 km north of Kamloops. The largest community in the Upper North Thompson Valley, Clearwater is a vibrant community of approximately 2,348 people and is the main centre for business, financial and government services in the North Thompson Valley. As the main gateway to Wells Gray Park on route to Jasper, it is also a hub for providing services and supplies to the traveling public.”
That’s how the District of Clearwater described itself in its first annual report since incorporation, issued in 2009.
Although the population has changed slightly since then, things are otherwise much the same.
The first annual report went on to say, “Clearwater is a thriving community with an economy based in forestry, tourism and agriculture, with tourism experiencing significant growth as travelers from around the world flock to the wilderness that surrounds the community.”
At the time the new municipality provided the following services:
• Parks and Recreation: North Thompson Sportsplex, Community Parks, Ball Diamonds, Living Well Program
• Bylaw Enforcement
• Development Services: Planning, Subdivisions, Re-Zoning, Amendments to the Official Community Plan, Development Permits, and other development permit applications
• Economic Development and Tourism promotion
• Fire Protection
• ICBC/Motor Vehicle Appointed Agent
• Public Works: Water System, Sewer System, Dykes, Facilities maintenance, etc.
• Street Lighting
•Transit Service Cemetery
Those services are much the same today, except for the addition of road maintenance, which the District took over in 2013 – five years after incorporation.
In his mayor’s report, John Harwood said that the medical community was challenged with recruiting physicians and other health care professionals to work in the community.
An important step forward was when the doctor recruitment committee hosted a Heart of the Matter Rural Health Symposium, which was aimed at developing strategies to recruit health care professionals for small communities throughout rural and remote B.C.
He reported that in May, 2009, Canfor announced that it would be closing its Vavenby operation and laying off the workforce indefinitely.
The shutdown lasted more than two years and was a major challenge to the District, the local economy and to those directly affected.
To help the laid off workers, town council approved the development of a fuel management program. In 2009, its first year of operation, the program undertook 43 prescriptions and provided 480 person-days of employment.
In the 2010 annual report, the mayor said that the District had been fortunate to receive almost $3.1 million in funding from the federal and provincial governments. This funding allowed for sewage lagoon upgrades, fuel management program, community wildfire protection plan and rejuvenation of Rotary Sports Park.
The District, in partnership with Interior Health and Evergreen Acres, completed a land exchange process and coordinated the building of 10 new seniors housing units.
A Protocol Agreement was signed in 2010 between District of Clearwater and Simpcw First Nation. The agreement states both parties will work together to improve common services such as Economic Development, Human Resources, Infrastructure and Environment in the North Thompson Valley. It was a follow-on to the community-to-community forums that are held regularly with Simpcw, districts of Barriere and Clearwater, plus the TNRD.
The year 2013 saw several major changes.
These included transfer of road maintenance from the province to the district. A roads maintenance contract was awarded in September of 2013. Also in 2013 a long term lease was signed with School District 73 for the former Dutch Lake School. A grant from the federal government and a partnership with Yellowhead Community Services allowed for extensive transforming the school into a community centre housing the municipal hall, a center seniors drop in centre, departments of Yellowhead Community Services, arts and culture, and a business incubation centre. With the completion of an Infrastructure Master Plan gave the District the ability to forecast infrastructure needs for the next 30 years.
As part of that infrastructure the District installed a UV System on our surface water.
Thompson Nicola Regional District completed a full service eco-depot and partnered with the District to design, construct and install of a septic receiving facility.
Five new dressing rooms were constructed at the North Thompson Sportsplex with the grand opening held in November 2013.
In 2014, the renovations at Dutch Lake Community Centre were completed, with a move-in held July 20 of that year, Mayor Harwood reported.
The year 2014 saw $9.3 million in building permits within the municipality, the opening of Buy-Low Foods, completion of a state of the art weather station, awarding a contract to construct a bio-energy plant at Dutch Lake Community Centre, a partnership with the Thompson-Nicola Regional District to build a septic receiving facility, celebrating Small Business Week, moving to a new municipal hall and creating efficiencies within the organization.
In 2015, Harwood reported that town council focus was on key areas established during strategic planning sessions – infrastructure improvements, updates to key development bylaws, strengthening parks and recreation programs, strengthening social and economic development, reviewing housing strategies, and continuing to improve financial resilience.
In 2015, considerable steps were taken to engage the public by the use of surveys and public meetings, open houses, the District’s bi-monthly newsletter, its Facebook page, and the District’s website.
“In 2015, we saw exceptional growth in the number of visitors to our community – we are home to the busiest Information Centre in the province,” said CAO Leslie Groulx in her report.
Also during 2015, the District partnered with the Thompson Nicola Regional District to build a septage receiving facility and was able to retain court services (the council chamber does double service as a courtroom).
The District completed its Trails Master Plan, built its first trail (Hospital Rim trail), and commissioned the District’s first bio energy plant, which is located at the Dutch Lake Community Center.
The District worked with Kinder Morgan in 2015 to finalize a community benefit impact agreement.
“Through our Business Licensing Program, we now know Clearwater has 190 plus businesses operating within the municipality,” said Mayor John Harwood in the 2016 annual report.
“We have also seen upgrades to our water and septage facilities,” he noted. “There is a vibrant senior group offering social and intellectual camaraderie. The District was fortunate to have Dragonfly Splash Park added, thanks to strong local participation.”
The Russian Women’s Hockey Team used the Sportsplex to train for the World Championships, which were held in Kamloops in March of 2016.
Harwood reported that what they liked best about Clearwater was clean air and water.
CAO Leslie Groulx reported that Clearwater was turning toward asset management as a business process to align priorities, making informed service delivery decisions, and building financial capacity to renew operating and maintenance of District infrastructure.
This was intended to allow the District to continue to provide efficient and applicable services, effectively manage risks, and provide taxpayers with the best value for money, she said.