New CBT program for Lower Columbia

Community Directed Funds will provide $200,000 per year over three years to groups in sub-regions of the basin.

The Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) has begun rolling out a new community development program in a number of areas around the basin and a team of volunteers from the Lower Columbia area has gathered to begin planning how the program will work here.

The Community Directed Funds (CDF) program will provide $200,000 per year over three years to groups in sub-regions of the basin rather than directly to any one city or town.

“There are currently three active CDF committees; Columbia Valley, from Canal Flats to Spillimacheen, Elk Valley, from Fernie to Elkford, and Slocan Valley,” said Kelvin Saldern, community liaison, Southwest Basin, for CBT.

“The funding can be used for anything from the social sector, economic development, environmental initiatives, or arts and culture. The funding could be leveraged with other sources of funding like federal or provincial sources or even foundations.”

The new funding initiative is intended to focus on input from the citizens of the combined communities about what they want to see for their particular region in addition to the programs, grants and initiatives the CBT already has in place.

For the Lower Columbia region the CDF committee is comprised of representatives from five municipalities; Rossland, Warfield, Trail, Montrose, and Fruitvale, as well as Regional District areas A and B.

“We’ve really tried hard to put a process in place that is based on transparency and broad consultation,” said Bruce LeRose, CDF committee chair.

“We didn’t want to pre-judge or pre-conceive how the funding will be used. We’ve taken the approach from a strategic standpoint because $600,000 over three years is a considerable amount of money and could have significant impact on the South Columbia sub-region.”

The committee has set its terms of reference and vision and mission statements and is now focused on building the process to go out to the public for consultation.

“As a committee we need public input, we’re just working out how we’ll gather that,” said Michele Cherot, CDF committee member. “This is a new mandate and new money and we’re an autonomous committee made up of volunteers. We have the ability to set priorities based on the feedback we get from the public. It should be an interesting process.”

The Lower Columbia CDF committee has made a conscious decision to try to avoid the political morass that can sometimes rear its head between communities.

“We’ve got a unique organization compared to the other committees,” LeRose said. “The other sub-region’s committees are made up of politicians from the communities. In this area we recognized it would be most effective is if we were made up of non-politicians from each of the seven areas and try to look at it from a different perspective to the area, look at it from a regional standpoint rather than as any one city. We’re looking at the community as singular, not a region with seven different parts. What are the types of things that will improve the quality of life in the area in a significant way? How much good can you do?”