Berry Wijdeven, Gwaii Trust director for Graham Island Central, speaks to fellow Tlellians on June 29 at a meeting to discuss how best to improve the community with funding from the trust. (Gwaii Trust Society photo)

Tlellagraph: Big ideas for little Tlell

“We all were going for the same thing — what would benefit Tlell realistically.”

This week I actually have real Tlell news! I need to let you know, along the lines of my previous column on funding for artists, I’ve discovered an even bigger pot of gold!

When Gwaii Haanas was created, Gwaii Trust was meant to increase local benefits and replace wages that would then be lost. It’s been a long road, and the Gwaii Trust is constantly trying to improve.

One frustration was the stipulation that organizations applying for Gwaii Trust grants needed matching funds. Thus the Vibrant Haida Gwaii Communities Initiative was created, offering $7 million to communities over four years. This money can be accessed by any not-for-profit and requires no matching funds. Its goals are to maintain, create, and develop community infrastructure.

Tlell gets 30 per cent of the allotment per year, totalling $75,000. New census numbers show that Tlell has seen an increase in permanent residents, while Port has seen a decrease (you can thank my sister and I for adding four to the tally in the form of offspring). This makes a case for a 40/60 split, meaning Tlell could see our allotment grow to $100,000 for the next two years. Should Port agree, that means $350,000 on the table for the good people of Tlell.

The question is, how does an unincorporated town come to a decision that reflects the needs and wants of the whole community?

On June 29, our Gwaii Trust director, Berry Wijdeven, held a public meeting to see what ideas might enjoy community support. I was expecting a chaotic free-for-all of special-interest lobbyists, but that proved to not be the case. While ideas were diverse, we all were going for the same thing — what would benefit Tlell realistically.

Ideas that were floated will be ranked and shared to the people of Tlell. They include, in no particular order: a cycling/walking trail along the highway, upgrades to the soccer fields, creating of a new community hall/space (or upgrade existing buildings such as the fire hall or the exhibition hall at the Fall Fairgrounds), fire hall maintenance and equipment upgrades, expanding the Tlell cemetery (yes, we do have one), cell phone service, Internet improvements, Fall Fairgrounds improvements, a Bear Smarts/Wildsafe program, increasing our first-responder capacity, and resurrecting the Tlell Visitor Information Centre.

These are but the germs of ideas, and many may have alternate sources of funding, as well as some complications involving provincial highways and parks. So where do we go from here?

A brave 12 souls stepped up to be on the steering committee. Ideas will have to get a solid proposal behind them, and Berry will have to approve it with the knowledge that there is wide support for the particular idea in Tlell. So stay tuned, and be sure to talk Berry’s ear off about your idea for a rollercoaster attraction on the property of the old Observer office. It just might gain traction.