District buys former school

A land acquisition by the Cowichan Valley Regional District has helped restore the community hub for residents of Saltair.

A land acquisition by the Cowichan Valley Regional District has helped restore the community hub for residents of Saltair.

The regional district has purchased the 2.2-hectare former Mt. Brenton Elementary School property for $300,000.

“The acquisition of this key property, complete with a school building that now operates with a licensed day care, will provide capacity for the Saltair community’s use of public space for activities, events and gatherings in the heart of the community,” said Mel Dorey, electoral area director for Saltair/Gulf Islands.

“This land purchase will have lasting benefits to Saltair, providing sufficient public lands that can be planned and used over the short and long term as the community’s interests and needs evolve.”

The former school is situated adjacent to Saltair Centennial Park and the properties have historically been used as a public gathering space and for outdoor recreation.

CVRD parks manager Brian Farquhar said the parks commission has had an interest in the property since it was sold to private interests in 2004, jumping at the chance to purchase the land at well below appraised value.

“There is great value in the property over the long term to provide the community a variety of opportunities to look at within the heart of Saltair. It’s a land space that will be available to residents to program for a whole variety of things furthering outdoor recreation and facilities that they’ve got in what is now a larger Saltair Centennial Park,” he said.

While there are no immediate plans for the property, Farquhar said there will be extensive public consultation to gain insight on the community’s wishes for the property.

“Maybe the community doesn’t have any immediate wishes other than keep the school building open as long as its functionally usable at little or no cost to the community,” he said. “But over the long term it gives the Saltair community the capacity to make those sorts of decisions over what they want to do in the future.”

The regional district will continue with the lease to a licensed day care for the foreseeable future while looking at other short-term uses for the facility.

“It could be used for everything from community gatherings to a space for local clubs to hold meetings,” said Farquhar, adding the closest recreation facilities operated by the regional district are in Ladysmith and Chemainus.

“In Saltair that has always been the go-to place, just the convenience and having a place that they can call their own.”