The District of Wells will now be running the Visitor Information Centre, and new artwork is being installed.                                 Observer file photo

The District of Wells will now be running the Visitor Information Centre, and new artwork is being installed. Observer file photo

Upgrades to facilities, restructured fire brigade, new education forest among exciting projects in Wells

The Wells Fire Brigade has a new interim fire chief, fitness centre has new equipment

The newly-restructured Wells Fire Brigade has started practising and has a new interim fire chief.

Donna Forseille, the District of Wells Chief Administrative Officer, says the public consultation regarding the Fire Brigade on Oct. 29 “was incredible,” and current volunteer Carrie Chard agreed to be the interim Fire Chief.

Forseille says that while the Wells Fire Brigade has been functioning for many years, with the former fire chief moving on and changeover of District staff, the Fire Brigade needed to be restructured and rebuilt.

“The volunteers for the Fire Brigade are all awesome,” said Forseille.

Forseille says the City of Quesnel has been very supportive, and the Quesnel Volunteer Fire Department has been working to try to come and train the volunteer firefighters in Wells.

Forseille says it looks like the 10 original members are staying on, and possibly five more volunteers are joining the brigade.

“That will be great, and if anybody else decides to join, that would be awesome too,” said Forseille.

Fire practices began Oct. 30, and anyone who is interested in volunteering with the Wells Fire Brigade is asked to express interest in writing to the District Office.

At the Oct. 29 council meeting, Wells council approved a grant application through the Union of British Columbia Municipalities for new fire gear and training and also approved a letter of resolution asking for support from the City of Quesnel for training the Wells Fire Brigade volunteers.

The rebuilding of the Fire Brigade is just one of many big projects underway in Wells.

One of the main projects taking place in Wells is upgrading the village’s water treatment system. The District of Wells received approximately $426,000 from the provincial and federal governments for the upgrades.

“I’m hoping it will include allowing us to do a backup well,” said Forseille. “All of the infrastructure in Wells is quite old, and it’s run its lifespan, so any little bit helps. It would be nice to fix the water mains and pipes, to prevent leaks and also to conserve water.”

This past summer, the District had to put on some strict water restrictions again to conserve water, and Forseille hopes the work that will take place will help address that.

“Our reservoir went way down, and our pump was running 24 hours a day again,” said Forseille.

Several leaks were found, and while they were repaired, Forseille says there is the risk that the Fire Brigade wouldn’t be able to use the hydrants if the reservoir got so low again.

“It would be great to twin the water system so if we have these leaks, it can keep up with demand,” said Forseille.

Upgrades at the Wells Community Hall

There is lots of work going on at the Wells Community Hall as well.

With the uncertainty around the school building — which was closed just before school started this September because it contains lead and asbestos and requires many costly repairs — the fitness centre has moved to the Community Hall for the time being and is being set up in the rooms off the banquet room.

With the school building, Forseille says the District is still waiting for more concrete information to come back, and Northern Health and WorkSafe still have to approve the building.

Forseille says the District received almost $10,000 worth of new gym equipment to add to the current community fitness centre. This new equipment includes a spin bike, a recumbent bike, an elliptical trainer, new free weights, aerobic steps, mats and a new television and DVD player.

“We had a bunch of volunteers show up yesterday [Oct. 31] and start to get that put together, so that’s good for the community members who are waiting to go back to the gym,” said Forseille.

The fire alarm system also is being upgraded at the Community Hall.

“Unfortunately, our Community Hall’s fire alarm is virtually non-existent because it is a historical building,” said Forseille. “We have to upgrade that, so we’re in the works of getting in quotes to update the fire alarm system, and once that’s installed, we can continue to rent the hall out to people.”

At its Oct. 29 meeting, Wells council approved a grant application through the Northern Development Initiative Trust for funding to replace the hall’s windows and roof because it’s starting to leak, according to Forseille.

Corridor beautification

Forseille says the Visitor Information Centre, which is located at the Jack O’ Clubs Lake pullout as you enter the village, has historically been run by the Chamber of Commerce, and it will now be run by the District.

The District received a grant for economic recovery back in 2017, and those grant funds include money for corridor beautification, so the District has used the remainder of the funds for improvements such as installing new artwork at the Visitor Information Centre and bringing in paddleboats for the lake.

This spring, a new musical playground will be going into the Willow River Park, located just before the Jack O’ Clubs and the Frog on the Bog. The new playground equipment is all in Wells, but the District hasn’t had a chance to put it in yet due to snow.

The District has also put up a new covered post-and-beam pavilion, which was built by Zirnhelt Timber Frames in 150 Mile House.

“I know ArtsWells got to utilize it this last year, and that was kind of neat because all their artists who paint murals that end up being auctioned off in the winter were all set up underneath there so we could all kind of walk by and see what they were doing,” said Forseille. “It’s situated beside the skating rink, which is great because it gives a covered area for people to kind of enjoy while kids are doing their thing on the rink.”

The outdoor rink will be up and running again this winter, and District staff have already begun flooding it.

Trail maintenance, new community flags, new dog waste stations around the village, picnic tables, benches and artwork are also new additions to beautify the village. A new message board for local businesses to advertise activities will also be installed in the spring.

Wells-Barkerville Community Forest

The Wells-Barkerville Community Forest Board is working on a new trailhead and trail system that would go into an educational forest.

“That would allow for different educational courses on horticulture and how community forests work,” said Forseille. “We currently have 15 University of Northern British Columbia students who have volunteered as part of their course load and have been doing some studies on that part of the forest, and they’re also doing some studies on caribou in the area and also I believe moose and wolves. It works great because it helps us to see where the animals are and what the trends are, but it also is helpful for them.”

Forseille believes the education forest is a 60-hectare piece of forest.

The community forest, which was approved in 2014, covers approximately 4,300 hectares to the north of the town of Wells.

Forseille is thankful for the community’s support and understanding as they work on these projects. She says community members have been supportive and creative in helping the District pull through these challenging times with the challenges coming from the old infrastructure at the school and community hall and with the Fire Brigade needing help, by providing a view from outside the District Office and council chambers of how the community can potentially move forward. They’ve also had individuals express interest in volunteering to help with grant writing.

“The community has been awesome,” she said. “Everyone is just brainstorming since the issues with the old school building. We have community members meeting and brainstorming and coming to council with what they would like, kind of like a task force but not an official task force.”

READ MORE: Excitement building around Wells Community Garden

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