By Margaret Miller, longtime Creston Valley resident
Our rural community is changing. New homes and businesses. Increased real estate sales. The repair of public works projects. A growing interest in outdoor recreational opportunities. New trails and a desire for more access to public waterways.
One change I’m pleased about is the construction of the Creston Emergency Services Building. It’s an ambitious and much needed addition to our valley, one that will better serve both residents and emergency service workers for years to come.
These days, when I make the run into town, I swing by the building site on Cook Street, to take a look at the progress. In what seems like a short period of time, huge concrete panels have been lifted into place and braced to create the exterior of an impressive two level structure and rear tower. Last week, the sloped roof was under construction.
Like our wonderful Community Complex, proposals for this project met with some resistance. Critics questioned the need for a building of this scale and construction costs. But good sense prevailed. The cost to replace even one half of a fire-damaged downtown block would amount to millions. Our community must be fully prepared for the unexpected.
A short drive south of town, on Highway 21, stands another new structure that’s a valuable addition to our valley – the Wellness Centre for the Lower Kootenay Band. This beautiful structure, designed by architect Dave Kitazaki, mimics the shape of a sturgeon-nosed canoe, a visual reminder of the rich history of the Yaqan Nukiy people. The more than 13,000 square feet of new space will house health care, administrative, and financial services and is a testament to the vision of Chief Jason Louie, the Lower Kootenay Band, and others who supported the project.
But it’s not just new construction that is exciting. A couple of my old favourites are also getting a much needed face lift, including Creston’s red grain elevator, one of two built in the 1930s that stands only a few blocks from the downtown core. I first spotted the historic wooden elevators when I visited Creston in the 80s. Perched high above the green and yellow fields of the flats, the tall twins were a charming feature in my first view of the town.
I’ve never seen the interior of the red elevator and am keen to see how the new space will be enjoyed by both locals and visitors. The views of Kootenay River, the farms west of town, and the Selkirk Mountains from the upper level of the structure should be impressive.
Another public works project I’m happy to see is the repair of the Nick’s Island Road South bridge. While bridge repair might not feel like something to write home about, it’s good news for me. The old bridge is an essential part of my shortest route to town, and the rumble of its wooden planks under my vehicle is a familiar, I’m-almost-home sound.
I’ve watched the old girl deteriorate over the years, and in recent months have learned to veer into the oncoming empty lane to avoid the raised lip of twisted planks and a few nasty screws protruding from them. In recent summers, I’ve watched in stunned indignation as deliberately lit fires damaged trees by the river and crept towards the bridge. I’m looking forward to the first stay-in-my-own-lane drive on the bridge at the end of this month.
Communities change and planning for the future is a complex balancing act. It takes vision and financial know-how to decide what features to preserve and what to discard. Sometimes what’s old – a fire hall, a community hall, a corner store, an office – is no longer serviceable. No longer safe. That’s when new is better. Sometimes what’s old in a community is of particular historic interest, and so worth preserving.
I appreciate living in a rural community where both the old and the new are valued; where a refurbished 86-year-old grain elevator and a state-of-the-art emergency services building can co-exist in a beautiful hillside setting.