TRU getting closer to new building for Wells Gray Education and Research Centre

It’s a plan that’s been 10 years in the making, but a new building for Thompson Rivers University’s site at Wells Gray is getting closer to becoming a reality.

Today is the last day for proposals from builders wishing to erect the 2,500 square-foot modular building, that will serve as the new Wells Gray Education and Research Centre.

TRU has run the facility since 1994, but Dean of Science Tom Dickinson says it was always known that more space would be needed.

“About a year after the transfer of property, we were given a 10-acre piece of property adjacent to it by some benefactors and that 10 acres adjacent to it was for, specifically, the development of a larger facility when we needed it,” he says. “So as we’ve grown as a university, so too have our needs to be able to accommodate our students and we’ve always struggled a little bit because we didn’t have the facility set up for winterization.”

Dickinson says for the last decade, there’s been a concerted effort to raise funds and put together courses that could be useful in all seasons for the centre. Another piece of land was donated to the university by Roland Neave and his family. Neave is the owner and president of Wells Gray Tours.

“We’ve got quite a bit of land out there but what we need to do is to develop facilities that are associated with the accommodation, and supplying of meals, and things like that, for classes of students that would go up there in all four seasons,” says Dickinson.

The land for this new modular facility is ready to be built on, Dickinson says, but a firm time frame likely won’t be set until a bidder has been chosen.

“We’ll have a periodic use of it that’s very intense — where we could have as many as 20 people staying on the site for three weeks at a time — and then the rest of the time it’ll be probably used up with weekend field trips from the various groups that come up from the university,” he says. “We will have to have some sort of facility maintenance up there, but I think the main part will be that we have various groups from the university taking care of it.”

The current education and research centre is a former one-room schoolhouse that served families from the 1940s to the 1960s, Dickinson says, and the current sleeping facilities are a little more than a tent.

Roughly a year and a half ago, the plan for the land was still to construct a building from the ground up, but Dickinson says once it was realized how expensive the construction of that would be, the school opted for a modular facility instead.

“We put in a well so we have a very serviceable and high quality well on site, and we piped in electrical servicing to the location where the building will go,” he says. “About a year and a half ago… we put in a required size and dimensions of a septic field. But because it became too expensive to do it that way, what we’ve done is we’ve gone the modular route to be able to not only do it less expensively but give us a little more flexibility in what we needed to build into it. So the building itself will lie on this piece of ground that’s already prepared and ready to go as long we can pour a cement pad in the spring.”

Dickinson says the partnership surrounding the existing and new Wells Gray Educational and Research Centre is crucial to the science department.

“This is something that is an important thing for the university, especially in this area of natural resource science and ecology and geography,” he says. “It gives us a presence in that part of our region that we have a mandated requirement to serve and provide educational opportunities for, and it’s really important to us to do that.”

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