Terrace hot springs revitalization worth the challenge

It could bring this region a tremendous economic boost, says writer

There are few things that get Terrace residents, especially long-time inhabitants, more riled up than the words “hot springs.”

For me, the words are usually preceded by the word “Skoglund” because that’s what it was called when I was growing up. There was no town swimming pool so other than Thornhill Falls or wading in the Ferry or Braun’s Island slough on a hot day, the family sprinkler was about your only option.

Like many others, I learned to swim in the hot springs outdoor pool. There were school buses to take us there and hard earned family money was spent on swimming lessons and maybe a hot dog or an ice cream afterwards. The hot springs was a focal point for fundraising for the Arena as well, with Community walkathons terminating there after walking from Terrace on a blazing hot summer day. As I grew older, the hot springs “bar,” with its wood panelling and shag rugs became the first place I ordered and paid for a cheap glass of draft beer. A kindly slinger checked our obviously underage ID and told us he’d bring us one (and only one) and then we had to skedaddle, but only after leaving a generous tip behind. The “newly remodelled” hot springs remained part of our community much later on as well as my children swam there and rode the shiny new water slides and ate french fries at the concession, just as I had done many years before.

It is this history that makes what the current hot springs has become such a tragic and provoking point of discussion. Anyone who has been there lately can only shake their heads at the empty cracked pool, the litter and debris and the general disrepair of what was once a sparkling, happy place. No more children’s laughter or stern parents’ calls ring through the air. No joyful shrieking, water splashing or warning sounds from lifeguards can be heard. Only the sound of a few crows breaks the desolate silence.

There are plans, we are told, to spruce the place up, to reclaim its past magic. It’s also an organic farm and the sight of a few vegetables for sale seems to back this up, but the fact remains, that the pool and the springs themselves are not available to anyone. Even most of the outdoor “mud pits” that a few hardy souls used to hike seem to have been filled in and made inaccessible.

There was recent news that the Kitselas First Nation had partnered with the renewable and alternative energy division of Enbridge to test and explore options for developing geothermal power. This would be an exciting prospect, and one that could bring investment and “new economy” jobs to the area, not to mention the potential of a competitive edge in lower energy costs to attract industries to the area. Clean, naturally renewable geothermal power is a reality in many countries and one that could literally power the way forward for the Terrace-Kitimat corridor.

As an ardent believer in free enterprise, I’m somewhat loathe to suggest that government get involved in anything to do with forcing private land owners to develop their property. In this case however, there is more at stake than usual. It is a precious community resource, and part of our history and one that is being wasted in a most callous way. While I am not privy to the details of the permit or licences involved, I think it’s fair to say that it is more than underutilized and much less than what the original signatories envisioned. There must be some way that the current owners of the property must be made to live up to the terms and spirit of the original purchase or acquisition agreement.

Anyone who has visited Fairmont, Nakusp or Radium Hot Springs has seen what this type of development can become and what kind of spin offs it can bring The energy and recreational potential behind the Lakelse Hot Springs should either not be a privately held and controlled asset or it should be held to a higher standard of development than it currently is.

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