Facility located on Akisqnuk First Nation opens its doors to all residents and visitors

By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

After much anticipation and a few delays such as the pandemic the Columbia Lake Recreation Center located on Akisqnuk First Nation located between Windermere and Fairmont along Highway 93 is excited to be celebrating their hard opening on March 10 from 1 to 3 p.m. in which it will be open to all residents of, and visitors to the Columbia Valley. There will be speakers and refreshments served. ?akisq?nuk in the Ktunaxa language refers to the two lakes (Windermere lake and Columbia lake).

“The original opening date was supposed to be June 27, 2019,” said Jason Nicholas, recreation coordinator. “We were only open a short time until COVID rules and regulations appeared, and we were unfortunately forced to close our doors. Staffing issues have also caused a light delay as well but we’re happy to announce that we are now fully staffed.”

The Columbia Lake Recreation Centre houses a gymnasium, elevated running track, and fitness room and offers open gym time as well. It is currently open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. After the hard opening on March 10, the Columbia Lake Recreation Centre will also be open on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.  to 6 p.m. Costs for membership and drop-in fees are still to be determined.

Since its opening in 2019 this Columbia Basin Trust-supported project and the biggest the Akisqnuk community has ever undertaken has not only been a space for recreation and celebration but has also provided jobs and training for community members. Nicholas shares that the inspiration behind the Columbia Lake Recreation Centre was the legacy of sports in the Columbia Valley, that goes back to the 1970’s and 1980’s with the ball clubs and hockey teams from the reserves.

“Sports have been a positive influence on many of us that grew up watching the teams and playing when we got our chance,” said Nicholas. “It brings us great joy to give an opportunity to the youth coming up today with a beautiful rec center, something that would have been appreciated in our youth.”

Invitations for the long-awaited March 10 hard opening were sent out to chiefs from surrounding First Nations, Columbia Valley Metis, mayors from all surrounding towns, as well as school representatives, local media, and youth club representative and organizers.

“For the Akisqnuk community we have a sense of pride that we have a recreation centre that can be utilized by the whole Columbia Valley,” said Nicholas. “We want all valley residents and visitors to feel welcome and enjoy our facility with us, and realize it’s a safe, and fun place to be. We already have many youths from the community enjoying the facilities and it brings us happiness to see that.”