Residents offer variety of ways to spend $600,000

Respondents said they would spend the money on public spaces, economic development, recreation, and more.

What would you do if you had half a million dollars?

The Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society (LCCDTS)  and the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation (LCIC) asked that very question in an online survey in September.

The survey is now closed and the 272 respondents said they would spend the $600,000 on public spaces, economic development, recreation, children, youth and seniors programming, education and affordable housing.

Now, the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation is trying to narrow down these ideas into a priorities plan that could affect the next few years in the region.

Bruce LeRose, chair of the Community Directed Funds Committee (CDFC) with LCCDTS, says now that the surveys are in, the next step is hosting focus groups and open houses.

“We are going to have three focus group meetings and three community open houses,” he said. “It will be a general discussion about strategic priorities to move forward.

The open houses are open to anyone in the public who has a thought on how the CDFC should spend the funds to make the Lower Columbia area a better place to live.

“I like to picture a big funnel,” said LeRose. “The top end of the funnel has as much information as possible and then narrowing it down to the bottom end of the funnel, where we will hopefully come out with some themes and strategic priorities the community thinks are important over the next five to 10 years.”

The focus groups are by invitation only, but will have the same goal as the open houses.

“(The focus groups) are to share thoughts and further prioritize the general information we got from all the surveys,” said LeRose. “It is not going to be project oriented, we just want to hear from the stakeholders in terms of where this money can be best spent to improve the livability in this area over the next little while.”

LeRose says the CDFC and the LCCDTS are motivated by collaborative efforts between committees, stakeholders and community members.

“This is an exciting project for the Lower Columbia community and it is one that we hope will create an atmosphere of working together within the community,” he said.

With the success of this initiative, LeRose says it could open up more opportunities for the future.

“It is creating a theme on how we can move forward in the Lower Columbia.”

There are three open houses, open to public input and ideas based on the survey results. The first two events are on Oct. 21, one in Rossland at St. Andrews United Church at 11 a.m., and the other, in the McIntyre Room of the Trail Memorial Centre at 5:30 p.m. The final open house is at the Fruitvale Memorial Hall on Oct. 22 at 2 p.m.