The restoration project would take place at the old Surge Narrows store and wharf area on Read Island.

Strathcona Regional District looks to restore site at Read Island

Grant would support work at old Surge Narrows store site and dock

The Strathcona Regional District wants to fix up a shoreline site on one of the Discovery Islands.

At the Jan. 9 board meeting, SRD manager of park and planning Aniko Nelson outlined a grant opportunity that could fund work at Read Island.

“We have an exciting opportunity in front of us,” she said.

Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) – Rural and Northern Communities grants are available for smaller communities, specifically those with fewer than 25,000 people. The program, though, covers 100 per cent of funding for communities with fewer than 5,000 people. The 2016 census lists Read Island’s population as 66.

“The grant looks at infrastructure projects,” Nelson said.

The federal and provincial governments are investing up to $95 million for the initial phase of ICIP projects. Specifically, these will support projects for food security; road, air or marine infrastructure; broadband connectivity; efficient and reliable energy; Indigenous heath and education facilities; community, cultural and recreation; local public transit; improved resilience to natural events; and environmental quality.

“Senior staff have identified the Surge Narrows store site an an eligible project for consideration,” she said. “In addition to that, the project has been supported by the Read Island community.”

At Read Island, the work would be to restore or rebuild the store, which closed in 2007, a boardwalk and a floating dock. The store, wharf and a fuel shed have since fallen into disrepair, says the SRD staff report. Nelson told the board they are working with a professional on a schematic site design that would include adding 300 more feet of additional walk space.

The SRD has a half interest in an upland area on the site after agreeing to purchase it in 2018. The regional district’s plan is to apply to the provincial transportation ministry for a subdivision to create two privately owned parcels. The SRD would be the sole owner of the parcel that fronts on the existing foreshore tenure area with the store site and wharf. As well, the SRD is seeking approval for the province’s Ministry Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development to assign the SRD tenure over the foreshore area to allow for clean-up and redevelopment work at the site.

The challenge with the grant is there is a quick turnaround time to apply. The deadline is Jan. 23.

“We are working vigorously behind the scenes to get all of the required criteria in order,” Nelson said.

The challenge in this case is that the federal government, according to SRD chief administrative office Dave Leitch, did not give much notice.

“That’s why you have limited knowledge of this project,” he said.

In this case, the grant could help the SRD with several problems on site. He did not want to see the regional district miss the chance for funding, so he directed staff to put together information for an application.

“I do not like to see grant opportunities come and go without a submission at all,” he said.

Leitch compared this with other SRD projects like Strathcona Gardens for which the regional district has been better prepared, adding the SRD will need to put in more work, time and effort to be ready when these grant opportunities present themselves with little notice.

Area C Director Jim Abram added that Nelson had to work over the recent holidays to prepare the grant application because of the short timeline.

“It sort of puts our staff under the gun,” he said.

Abram also said that while there was little notice about the grant opportunity, the board should be familiar with the waterfront issues on Read Island, and he hoped the board members would get behind the project.

“It’s a fantastic project grant opportunity. I really hope the board will support it 100 per cent,” he said.

The board voted to approve the grant application. The decision also includes a provision for the regional district to commit to its share of any ineligible costs or cost overruns associated with the project as covered in the 2019 financial plan.