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A vision for the future of Salmon Arm

An agricultural college on the former JL Jackson school site could be just the economic boost that Salmon Arm needs.
At the annual general meeting of Downtown Salmon Arm on April 17, members of the Downtown Community College Committee announced this hope with figures to support their vision.
Chair Bill Laird said the committee has set its sights on the former JL Jackson site but emphasized that the land has not been purchased.
“The dream is four or five acres on the southwest corner,” he said.
Lana Fitt, manager of Salmon Arm Economic Development, said the Vannstruth Consulting Group prepared an economic impact analysis of a downtown campus.
Findings show that in the first year, based on an estimate of a 40 per cent growth in students reflecting  factors such as diversified programming, increased housing and development  of agriculture as a flagship program, impacts would mean 42 new jobs and annual expenditures of $3.4 million.
That doesn’t include figures for construction of the campus or tourism from out-of-towners visiting students.
Laird noted that the whole JL Jackson site is about 12 acres, including the Downtown Activity Centre, and the committee would not want to disturb the centre as it provides valuable services. The current college campus is about five acres, but doesn’t have the ability to grow up or out. The preliminary vision for the new campus would be to build two to three storeys high, Laird said.
He added there would still be room for sports to continue behind the activity centre.
Margaret Hardy, the DCC co-ordinator, noted the committee’s vision comes from more than 600 surveys from individuals in the community, as well as input from groups. Of those surveys, three areas of post-secondary education were singled out for expanded programming: applied arts and culture, health-care programming and agriculture.
Noting the growing emphasis on food security  and sustainability, Hardy pointed out that the average age of a farmer is 57 years old.
“So education for agriculture is key, of the absolute and utmost importance if we’re going to be able to continue to eat,” she said. “We are going to be proposing that Okanagan College has agriculture as its flagship program.”
Helping to achieve that vision, she said, is an interest from the University of the Fraser Valley in partnering  with Okanagan College to provide agricultural courses here.
Another aspect of the vision would be a performing arts theatre, Laird said.
“It is our opinion, a wise place to put the theatre would be on this site. The  college could use it part of the time. In this day and age, we don’t think it’s wise to build a single-use building anymore. We are very enthusiastic about a new performing arts theatre in the community, but again feel these uses can complement each other.”
Laird also pointed to the possibility of a pedestrian underpass near Wing’s Restaurant that would connect the campus to downtown.
Said Hardy: “We believe the downtown community campus will provide the hub to hold the community together.”
Hardy suggested that residents sign a supporting community partner agreement to show their interest in having a downtown campus.
Laird said the committee will keep working on the vision so it has a business plan when funding is forthcoming.
“When the Liberals want to get elected next May, they will come roaring in with money,” he smiled.

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