Chief Cote gives update on joint active transportation network

By James Rose
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

On July 28, a monthly meeting was held between the Shuswap Band, the District of Invermere and Pete Bourke, the new program facilitator. The meeting’s agenda included a discussion about celebrating the friendship agreement signed last fall between the two communities.

On September 10, the Shuswap Band and the District of Invermere (DOI) are planning a community celebration of the landmark friendship agreement at Kinsman beach. Plans for the celebration have been in the works since the agreement was signed last October. When it was first signed, Chief Cote and her council met with councillors from the DOI on the shores of the Columbia River for a physically distanced ceremony.

“The Friendship Agreement between Shuswap Band and the District of Invermere is what a friendship is, that is, built on trust, respect and recognition,” Chief Cote said last fall. “Working together on this initiative of the active transportation route is only the beginning of a long-term partnership that can only make, not only our two communities, but the valley at large become more accessible for locals and visitors.”

With the easing of provincial pandemic restrictions, the celebration will occur the same weekend as the Shuswap Band’s tenth annual Columbia Salmon Festival (scheduled for September 11). To Chief Cote, hiring Pete Bourke to continue the work done by the past CEDI facilitator Melissa Lawrence was a no-brainer. “It’s been such a smooth transition,” Chief Cote said.

Regarding the joint active transportation network, Chief Cote said the next step is for the two communities to agree on the bridge’s design. Urban Systems, a community consulting firm, has already presented potential designs with a total price tag for the project between $1.7 and $2 million. Yet to be determined is exactly how the bridge will look, building materials used, and whether or not it will be designed to accommodate access to Invermere for emergency services.

If something were to happen to the Athalmer bridge, making it uncrossable during an emergency, an ambulance would either have to drive all the way around the lake to the south to access Westside Road or drive as far north as Radium to access the valley’s northern unpaved portion of the Westside Road. The current cost estimates from Urban Systems don’t take into consideration the widening of the bridge to accommodate an ambulance. The degree to which a widening will impact the price will influence the working group’s decision on how to proceed.

DOI Mayor Al Miller and Chief Cote have both made it clear that funding for the project won’t come from the pockets of local taxpayers.