The first youth to attend a new camp proposed by Telus could set foot on the Cawley Point site, north of Sechelt, as early as summer of 2022.
As part of a presentation to Coast Reporter on Oct. 4, Telus’s chief communications officer, Jill Schnarr, said the company expects to spend upwards of $50 million on the camp and marina on Sechelt Inlet, and future developments at those sites, in the coming years. About $30-40 million will be invested in the camp, while more than $10 million will go toward upgrading the marina on Sechelt Inlet Road.
“We’re really excited to work with the shíshálh Nation to ensure this is respectful and celebratory of their heritage and history on the Sunshine Coast,” Schnarr said. “We felt that was an appropriate investment.
The originally planned opening date for the camp at Cawley Point was delayed due to the pandemic, Telus's director of operations for corporate citizenship and community investment, Kate Reeves, told Coast Reporter. The corporation acquired the 124 acres of land at Cawley Point in January 2020, and planned to host a children's camp at the site in the summers of 2020 and 2021. Now, the first campers are expected in 2022.
Now, work is underway at the former Choquer & Sons Machine Welding Ltd. site on Sechelt Inlet Road that will serve as a launching point for the camp. A marina shop will also operate on-site.
With shíshálh Nation conducting cultural and archeological monitoring, a crew is cleaning up the site and remediating some environmental spills. Demolition permits have been acquired to take down former accommodations in the coming months. Reeves said Telus is also working with the nation on plans for the docks and foreshore area. While plans are still being developed, the dock replacement will include light-penetrating materials, and marine habitat restoration will be a focus. By improving the docks, Telus also anticipates being able to increase the number of boats at the marina.
As for the camp, Telus will be taking a phased approach as it adds to the existing facilities from the former Wilderness Resort & Retreat. The not-for-profit initiative will host forums on education and research, as well as health and wellness experiences that will fund the operation of a variety of camps.
Reeves said the camps will include the traditional summer camp experience, as well as camps throughout the year in partnership with groups such as shíshálh Nation, charities and non-profits. In the coming year, weekend camps will be offered to at-risk youth.
“We’re hoping literally to have 100 per cent of youth on the Sunshine Coast visit this particular camp,” Schnarr said, which will be supplemented by youth from across Canada. The company will work with community boards to offer scholarships to youth in need from across the country.
“Our intention in 2022 is to focus primarily on the youth of the Sunshine Coast,” Reeves said.
Telus will also be introducing pilot projects related to marine research, green technology and agriculture at Cawley Point.
On Sept. 29, Telus submitted an application to the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) to change the zoning for DL 4444 from Rural 2 to a comprehensive development. Part of the plan sent to the SCRD, Reeves said, includes accommodation for camp staff at the Cawley Point site.
There are currently 50 people employed by Telus on the Sunshine Coast. By 2025, they expect Telus’s local number of direct employees to increase to 250, and 500 indirect employees.
Telus investments in infrastructure, social causes and to charities on the Sunshine Coast include more than $100 million since 2000, and an additional $150 million is expected by 2035.