City of Nelson Creates Student Opportunity

“We didn’t realize how much we needed this person until we met them.”

This is Joanna Markin, Director of Human Resources Corporate Safety & Technology for the City of Nelson. She is speaking about how a project for the City remained on the sidelines until the right person came along to tackle it. In the case of the City of Nelson, it was a need to audit the payroll against its respective collective agreement.

“I had this project sitting on my desk and knew I needed to find the time and resources to deal with it, but sometimes that’s hard to do,” said Markin. “I knew it was something that needed to be addressed and taken on.”

Enter Harshit Kandpal, a Thompson Rivers University student completing his post-baccalaureate diploma program in human resource management who applied on another co-op position with the City. For Joanna and Chris Jury, Deputy Chief Financial Officer for the City and Harshit’s day-to-day supervisor, it was a bit of a eureka moment.

“That’s when we met Harshit. We recognized that he had an incredible skill set for auditing and realized we had met the right person with the right experience and that we could create a special project for him to take on that would also fill a need we had. We turned to the Trust and applied on their School Works Program to support us in creating an opportunity to hire him.”

The School Works Co-op Wage Subsidy provides wage subsidies to employers in the Basin to help them hire post-secondary students enrolled in full-time education and participating in a recognized university or college co-op education program. The City of Nelson worked with College of the Rockies, who administers the program on the Trust’s behalf, to hire Harshit.

For Harshit, the co-op position at the City of Nelson has been a game-changer on several levels.

As a student from India and new to Canada, it’s provided an opportunity to work in a job relevant to his field of study as well as become a member of a community, not just as a student on campus, but as a resident, employee and volunteer.

“It has been an awesome experience,” said Kandpal. “The co-op position has allowed me to gain real-world experience in Canada in what I want to do professionally. I had never really thought about working for a municipal government before and with this opportunity, I have been able to use my education and previous work experience to do just that. It’s given me the break I was really hoping for, and it’s allowed me to discover a different part of BC and be part of a new community, like volunteering with Nelson and District Recreation and the Nelson Leafs team.”

Similar to the experience for Harshit, the co-op term has been beneficial for the City of Nelson, not just to undertake this special project, but as an opportunity to reflect on internal processes and see a new way of looking at how work gets done.

“Having Harshit in the co-op position allowed us to have a bit of a critical eye on how we did things as an employer,” said Jury. “By mentoring Harshit in his new job, by explaining to him how processes worked at the City, it allowed us to do some analysis on why we were doing things a certain way and ask ourselves – why are we still doing it this way? It’s helped us make some changes for the better.”

Reconnecting and Protecting Grizzlies

For the past 70 years, grizzly bears in the South Selkirk and Purcell mountains have largely been isolated from each other. What was once one population of bears has split over time, primarily due to development in the valleys, leaving the South Selkirk population small.

Since 2004, Kaslo scientist and independent researcher Michael Proctor has looked for ways to restore connectivity between these two populations and help recover the South Selkirk population. At the same time, he’s looked for ways to reduce bear mortality due to conflicts with humans.

In 2012, Michael began working with Trust support to GPS collar and track grizzlies.

His work provided a better understanding of the Creston Valley as an important wildlife corridor for Selkirk grizzly bears. Michael’s research found that 17 individual grizzly bears use this area. More specifically, the data showed that male bears range widely between Creston and Nelson and spend little time in the valley, while a few female bears spend longer periods of time in the valley.

“These bears spend much of their time in the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area, right up to Duck Lake,” says Michael. “They also like to hang out in the Yaqan Nukiy wetland area.”

Radio collaring allows researchers like Michael to track and identify movement corridors between fragmented animal populations, like the Selkirk and Purcell grizzlies. Because these populations were fragmented and movement between each was lost over time, researchers must predict where these corridors might occur today.

“The information we get from collaring animals helps us understand how we can restore connectivity between the Selkirk and Purcell populations,” says Michael. “Radio collaring allows us to create habitat use models and those models paint a picture for how two separate populations once moved in one, unbroken area. It highlights where we should focus efforts to restore or protect habitat that will help support bears to move between the Selkirks to the Purcells.”

With a better understanding of how and where bears move within the Selkirk corridor, Michael has also been able to identify how bear-human conflict might arise and find ways to reduce it. The collar data provides information the BC Wildlife Conservation Service can use to support the management of grizzly bears in the Creston Valley.

“It was useful to follow the bears’ movement in the Creston Valley to understand their use of that corridor. It helped us focus management efforts to reduce human-wildlife conflicts,” says Michael. “For example, we now know bears are really attracted to corn fields and cherry orchards. We can go to residents and show them which attractants they should secure to prevent bear encounters. Collaring, tracking and other projects the Trust is supporting, such as electric fencing, help us better manage bears and people.”

Plus, the data he’s gathered will feed into projects like Kootenay Connect. This project has received support for conservation activities in a dozen habitats wetlands and riparian-rich valley-bottoms—one of which is the Creston Valley.

One of the management tools Kootenay Connect uses to enhance connectivity is to partner with organizations to purchase conservation lands that help increase ecological connectivity.  For example, in the Creston Valley, conservation lands in the north portion of the valley have been purchased by the Nature Conservancy of Canada that benefit the endangered northern leopard frog and the Selkirk grizzly, connecting both species’ winter and summer habitats.

Now managed to benefit frogs and bears, these lands also benefit many other species, including elk, deer and small predators.

“The investment by the Trust in our work on the Selkirk grizzly sub-population has supported us in expanding to this next level,” says Michael . “By helping us to understand bear connectivity, we are working to improve the habitats and connectivity or other species across the Kootenays.”

Bringing the Library to the People

In its new location on the top floor of the state-of-the-art Columbia Valley Centre, the Invermere Public Library has expanded its services with more books, activities and programs. It also extends beyond its physical space, providing services throughout the Columbia Valley, from Spillimacheen to Canal Flats, to a population that fluctuates seasonally from 9,000 to 20,000 people.

With minimal staff, developing and implementing new, engaging programs has been difficult. To fulfill the library’s potential, the team needed an additional member—a knowledgeable and passionate person who could help deliver existing programs and develop a host of others.

With help from the Trust’s Career Internship Program, the library created a new full-time permanent position and filled it with their new intern. “The new role boosts our community outreach,” says Nicole Pawlak, Library Director. “After providing community programs only as our limited resources would allow, this is the first time we’ve been able to properly define and fulfill the role.”

The Career Internship Program gives employers wage subsidies to hire recent post-secondary graduates for full-time, career-focused positions that lead to permanent employment. The program helps employers expand their teams and capacity at a reduced cost; it also supports graduates in finding employment in their chosen fields.

A recent graduate of English from Dalhousie University in Halifax, the new Community Outreach Library Assistant, Blair McFarlane, draws on a long history with the library—years as a volunteer and a summer student since 2015. She now eagerly embraces a variety of tasks and responsibilities that broaden both her professional experience and the library’s reach and impact. The program supports the library during Blair’s training and at the end of the program the aim is for Blair to be fully-trained to continue in the permanent role.

“I love the responsibility,” McFarlane says. “Organizing events such as author visits where I get to interact with the writers—it’s exciting to host an event that attracts people who don’t typically come into the library. Developing programs is creative and fun, particularly for kids.”

McFarlane enthusiastically takes the lead on activities ranging from the summer reading program to an upcoming STEAM initiative (science, technology, engineering, arts and math). She also helps promote the library in various ways.

It’s not always about being inside the library, of course. With an eye on community outreach, McFarlane regularly leaves home base armed with books, crafts and other activities to visit more distant Columbia Valley communities, such as to the Village of Canal Flats.

It’s trips like these that excite McFarlane the most. With an inspired gleam in her eye, she often asks, “What can we do next to take the library to the people?”

Growing Affordable Housing Snapshot

Twelve new affordable housing units for families are ready to open their doors in Kimberley.

These are just a fraction of the over 1,000 new affordable housing units the Trust has helped create in the Basin since 2002, in addition to repairs and upgrades to over 1,000 existing affordable units.

Affordable housing is essential when it comes to creating healthy and resilient communities and reducing poverty. The Trust supports affordable housing, including over 500 new affordable rental units that are currently under development in the Basin.

An Eye-catching Restoration

Outside the Revelstoke Railway Museum sits a vibrant yellow caboose.

Not long ago, the caboose was showing its age. Now, with help from the Trust’s Heritage, Museum and Archive Grants, Ed Koski and Jimmy Young from the Revelstoke Heritage Railway Society have restored it close to its original condition. Built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1954, the caboose was one of the first to be built in steel, rather than wood, and to have a cupola (elevated windows and seats) in the centre, rather than at an end. “The caboose is the one piece of outdoor rolling stock that we are able to have open to the public year-round,” says Hayley Johnson, Executive Director. “This project will draw enthusiasts to the museum at all times of the year.”

Community Dream Comes True

The new $4-million Columbia Lake Recreation Centre is the largest project the community of Ɂakisq’nuk has ever undertaken.

“This project was an absolute priority for this community,” says Heather Rennebohm, Economic Development Officer.

The 22,400-square-foot complex houses a gymnasium, elevated track, exercise room and more, including office space for a variety of community services. From design to construction, the Trust-supported project provided jobs and training for community members and provides employment today to the people who help make the place run.

The facility opened in spring 2019 and is already making an impact in the community and beyond. From intramural sports to hosting tournaments, the centre offers something for everyone when it comes to improving health through sports and activities.

Anyone from anywhere can use the facility, which runs activities for all ages and a range of interests. Chief Alfred Joseph says, “This community is not separate. We are all part of the larger whole.”

Investing in Basin Businesses

Giving local businesses a boost to meet demand

Starting, purchasing or growing a business often requires financial support. Like other traditional lenders, the Trust welcomes smart investment opportunities—like these two examples.


Co-owned by Dr. Amber Robinson and Jason Schroeder, the Nakusp Veterinary Clinic aims to be a place of low stress for animals. Sure, they may have to endure the odd needle, but there are also yummy treats, stress-relieving pheromones and the occasional refrain of relaxing classical music. “This means a great deal to us as business owners and how we want to practise medicine here,” says Robinson.

The clinic also means a great deal to the people of the community—if Robinson and Schroeder hadn’t stepped in as the previous vets retired, pet owners might have faced long drives to the nearest vet.

The couple has been treating pets “fear-free” in Nakusp since June 2018. Before that, they and their three children lived in Victoria, where Robinson also worked as a vet. But when Schroeder lost his job as a software developer, it was time to consider “how to run life differently,” he says.

By chance, they heard the previous vets in Nakusp were set to retire. Unfortunately, though, the couple had a hard time securing financing to set up a new clinic. That is, until they received a loan from the Trust.

Now, Schroeder concentrates on the business side of things while Robinson offers a range of veterinary services, primarily to cats and dogs. Aided by the occasional locum vet, they’ve had a constant flow of clients right from the get-go.

They’ve also been supported by a team of nearly half a dozen staff members. “They’ve been learning a lot,” says Robinson, and some even plan to do additional training. “That’s part of our objective when running a business,” she says: not only to provide a service and make an income, but to build the skills of people in the community.

As for life in Nakusp, the family hasn’t had much time to explore the area yet—a by-product of living on top of where they work. “From that particular side, we’re still new here,” says Schroeder. “We’ve barely finished unpacking.”


In addition to the Creston Valley’s vineyards, wineries and orchards, there’s another type of agriculture-based business making a name for itself beyond the beautiful, fertile valley. PR Forage Co. Ltd. farms more than 2,550 acres to produce timothy hay for export to Japan.

With few local buyers that are already well supplied, selling to faraway markets is a win for the business and for the region, as it brings in outside money to support the local economy. During its busiest season, PR Forage also employs up to 16 people full-time, who prepare the shipments that average 26 metric tonnes.

“We bought the farm from Wynndel Box and Lumber in 2014,” says owner James Kemp. “Timothy had been grown on that property for the seed industry for some time. The owners had a relationship with Columbia Basin Trust, and the Trust was ready and willing to provide our financing.”

Kemp says that once he got into the hay production business, he realized that if he contracted out the processing and transport, his profits would be minimal. He needed more equipment and higher production without a crippling increase in cost.

“In partnership with the Lower Kootenay Band, we invested in our own custom hay press,” Kemp says. “We partner with LKB and profit-share with them on the hay press production. We also purchased four trucks for our own use.”

PR Forage also leases 1,500 acres of farmland from the Lower Kootenay Band (also known as Yaqan Nuʔkiy) for timothy hay production, plus gets timothy hay from other Creston Valley farmers who lease land from the band. “The partnership with LKB began in 2007,” says Kemp. “Without their continued support, we would have a very tough time staying viable.

“As Indigenous people, the Lower Kootenay Band puts an emphasis on land stewardship, and they like the lower environmental impact of our operation. Timothy is only re-seeded every five years on average, and has a relatively low fertilizer and chemical input compared to some other annual crops.

Together, PR Forage, the Lower Kootenay Band and the Trust are ensuring another successful, sustainable agri-business in the Creston Valley.

Two-way benefits

The Trust invests in Basin businesses to help them be successful and make an economic difference in the region. It also invests in them to generate the revenues it needs to fund its programs and services, alongside its investments in power projects, market securities and real estate.

Playing in the Basin

Kids are getting active and getting support to lead healthy lifestyles through the Trust’s Basin PLAYS (Physical Literacy and Youth Sport) initiative. Here are some of the activities:


In Ymir, the community noticed youth wanting to play more court sports outside—but that meant many were playing in the streets. A new multipurpose court gives them a safer place to play sports like basketball and volleyball, right next to the skatepark.


There was mud, leaping, crawling and laughter. At Rossland Summit School, leadership students designed and built a mud obstacle course. Other students then eagerly started training to tackle it, getting fit so they could use their strength, endurance and physical literacy skills to conquer the challenging route.


Before, the Cranbrook Lacrosse Association was bringing in referees from elsewhere. Now, it has trained and certified 10 referees of its own, giving local youth the opportunity to play the sport at various levels. In total, 67 training grants have helped groups throughout the Basin accredit coaches and officials.

Fun and Games - with a Purpose

Developing leadership skills in youth

It’s hard to keep all the balls in the air—literally. Picture a room of youth tossing juggling balls to each other, calling each other’s names, seeing how many balls they can keep moving. It may sound like hysterical fun, but it’s got a purpose. It’s a lesson on communication.

This is one activity of the program A Leadership Journey: The First Steps. Developed by the Trust and delivered by Community Youth Networks in the Basin, this six-week program helps youth develop their leadership and communication abilities and actively think about making change in their communities. The youth come away with practical skills they can immediately use at school, at jobs and in their lives.

These sessions “allow them to see how to become a leader, make things happen and achieve a goal,” says Lori Joe, Coordinator, Kimberley Youth Action Network. It offered the program in January 2019, resulting in nine “graduates” from grades nine to 12, who can now add this certificate to their resumés. Plus, several of the youth have been inspired to join the network’s leadership team.

Like all of the Kimberley network’s activities, the program was offered because the youth asked for it. “The youth actually have a voice and get to speak to what’s important to them,” Joe says, “whether it be fun activities or initiatives or job readiness skills. They create the priorities. And then we create an action plan to support those priorities.”


This youth-led aspect is also a priority of the entire network of youth groups. In fall 2015, the Trust built upon its previous work with youth and established the Basin Youth Network. At the community level, this network supports and provides funding to 28 Community Youth Networks, like Kimberley’s. These work to increase local activities and opportunities for youth aged 12 to 18, enabling them to learn new skills and engage more with each other and their communities.

For six years, the Rossland Youth Action Network has been offering “a ton of different programs,” says Coordinator Holly Borwick. More than 100 youth visit the centre over the course of a school year, including 20 to 30 youth during the daily drop-ins. There are various clubs and activities, and the latest Rossland Youth Week took place in June 2019. “It was a ton of fun,” she says. “There was an event each day so it was lots of work and a lot of the youth got on board with volunteering.

“We’re really lucky in this community to have a centre like this,” she says. “I feel there’s really a sense of community that’s grown around the youth centre. Youth are more inclined to help out and volunteer, and they come to me with their ideas, and they come to me with their problems. I think it’s a really important program.”

In addition to supporting Community Youth Networks like these, the Trust’s regional network also takes on Basin-wide tasks. It develops programs—like the Leadership Journey—that address youth priorities. It provides resources to local youth coordinators and others who work with youth. It also hosts events that bring together youth from different communities.

For example, in spring 2018 it hosted a Leadership Summit for youth. Here, participants developed their leadership skills, learned public speaking techniques, networked and took part in confidence-building activities. Nearly 100 youth came to the event in Kimberley from 22 communities.

With the help of the journey and other opportunities from Lori, I was fortunate to receive the community and volunteerism scholarship. This opportunity will help other students in the upcoming years, just like it helped me and my peers.



In all, more than half a dozen youth networks in the Basin have offered the Leadership Journey, including those in the Beaver Valley, Slocan Valley and Nelson. About 70 youth have completed the program.

While the Rossland network isn’t one of these, it hopes to offer the program in the fall. “It would be good to target some of the older youth to gain these leadership skills that are becoming more important in the job place,” Borwick says.

As for Kimberley, it hopes to offer the program a second time in September. During the program, participants identify some priorities that are important to them. By providing the program earlier in the school year, the youth would then have time to tackle these priorities during school months.

Becoming a leader and an active community member is a lifelong path. The Trust’s Leadership Journey—and the guidance of the region’s Community Youth Networks—help Basin youth take the crucial first steps.

The Youth Action Network is a place where they know your name. It’s also great because no matter who you are, you are welcome there, and it’s a great work space to do homework. I love helping with events and going to drop-in between my busy schedule.


Art Energizes Public Spaces

Communities celebrate their people and places

It engages minds and offers broad learning experiences. It adds vibrancy to communities, attracts visitors and benefits local economies. It helps provide a living to those engaged in creative careers. What is it?

Public art.

In 2018, the Trust introduced Public Art Grants to help communities and groups buy and install art by Basin
artists in public spaces like main streets, parks and plazas.


A new mural for the community of ʔaq̓am will span two exterior walls of its biomass heating building. One will depict a horseshoe feature found on nearby hoodoos, incorporate the four seasons and include local animals and their Ktunaxa traditional names. The other will reproduce a historical photo of ʔaq̓am taken around 1900.

“The final concept for both parts of the mural came directly from the Elders,” says Mitch Tom, Operations Coordinator.
As a young Ktunaxa artist who has undertaken a number of smaller projects for her community, Darcy Luke is looking forward to painting and taking on this bigger challenge.

“This is going to be my largest project to date,” she says. “I am excited to do this work
as an artist and as a Ktunaxa citizen. It feels very empowering to undertake this large-scale work for my community.”


On a wall inside the community’s main gathering space, the Elkford Community Conference Centre, the Elkford Arts Council Society has installed art that draws the viewer in to reflect on the natural and human history of the area. The piece—Pass in the Clouds, by local artist Katherine Russell—uses six glass panels to depict a mountain-ridge trail located in the nearby Height of the Rockies Provincial Park.

“Public art has the power to energize and enhance our public spaces, making us think and transform where we live, work and play,” says Teri Cleverly, Director. “Public art helps celebrate the qualities that make one town different from another and will often reach a demographic that would never otherwise set foot in an art gallery or museum. This piece celebrates the beauty of the Elk Valley and what makes living here unique.”


Visitors are able to walk, sit and balance on a ribbon of metal as part of a new art installation
in Cranbrook’s Idlewild Park. Meant to break down barriers about how people interact with art, Idlewild and the Spirit of Joseph Creek was inspired by Joseph Creek, a waterway that winds through the community. Approximately 50 feet long, the sculpture also incorporates large boulders that highlight the creek’s movement.

The Cranbrook and District Arts Council commissioned the piece from local artist Paul Reimer.

“We want to inspire the imagination and fuel creative interpretation in the people who visit the park,” says Yvonne Vigne, President.

“Public art like this sculpture provides an experience that is accessible to everyone, while also creating awareness about our local artists. It’s a way to generate a creative spark that does not require visiting a gallery.”