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News Item

Cheakamus Centre looking for $500,000 funding

January 04, 2018
​Cabins have been used for over 50 years
Melanie Green / Squamish Chief

Local environmental educational facility The Cheakamus Centre is seeking further funding to help fix up 10 old cabins with the goal of collecting $500,000.

As part of the campus renewal initiative, the Cheakamus Foundation for Environmental Learning has been actively securing refurbishing funding, which includes sustainability and energy costs.

“The cabins have been in use by thousands of students over the years,” said Sarah Bainbridge, senior development officer. “We’ve identified a number of enhancements required for these well-loved structures.”
On the 420-acre Squamish ecological reserve, cabins have been used for overnight field trips and education retreats that aimed to help students gain a better understanding of the natural world. Even as adults, former students frequently talk about this overnight learning experience as a highlight of their school years, Bainbridge said.
“The original rustic buildings are being retrofitted as opposed to decommissioned,” she added, acknowledging required modifications may be more than $500,000. The plan is to champion more volunteers and supporters for the project.

“It really will be a community effort,” she said.

The foundation was fortunate to have BCIT students help with case feasibility studies which identified the key elements for cabin upgrades that are energy efficient, such as new windows, proper insulation, and accessible bathrooms. These students will also be involved in the next phases of the project.

The centre recently announced it received a contribution to the project from Mountain Equipment Co-op which should provide help for one cabin, she said.

“Our cabins have seen steady use for nearly five decades. This generous donation allows us to integrate sustainable design innovation with our educational mission and continue to deliver the life-changing overnight programs for thousands of students year-round,” said Cathy Jenkins, project manager for campus renewal.

Jenkins was once a counsellor, then an employee and now serves as a volunteer as well.

Bainbridge also recognized significant contributions from local families like the Jenkins, who have seen generations move through the program. Other donor families preferred to remain anonymous.
Despite these helping hands, they’re still only part way there. The goal is funding for the remaining six cabins.

“We are looking at $50,000 cabin contributions which will come with a range of benefits,” Bainbridge explained, like the organization or individual naming in perpetuity, facility rentals and a signature “Friend of Cheakamus” designation that will allow access to special events and tax credits.

Previously known as the North Vancouver Outdoor School, the centre offers environmental education and Indigenous cultural programs. In fact, over 750,000 people have participated in programs and events since 1969, according to a recent news release.

Tucked away in Paradise Valley, the Centre has received numerous provincial, national and international awards recognizing leadership in place-based education, the release stated. Serving over 15,000 visitors annually, it is home to wintering bald eagles, five species of Pacific salmon and an array of biodiverse ecosystems. In addition, there is a salmon hatchery with a network of spawning channels through cedars and a traditional teaching long house.

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