Agur Lake project gets economic boost

By Steve Kidd - Penticton Western News Published: March 19, 2009

MLAs Bill Barisoff and Rick Thorpe congratulate Amanda Lewis, a director with the Agur Lake Camp Society, after they presented the group with a cheque for $100,000 to continue the work of building the respite camp for people with special needs.

The Agur Lake Camp Society is one step farther along in their quest to create a camp for people with disabilities and special needs in the wilderness near Summerland.

At a special get together Thursday, the society unveiled plans for the buildings, including a lodge and cabins that will eventually be constructed on the property, with designs created by Coast Architectural Group.

As a bonus, they also got to announce a further $100,000 donation from the provincial government in the form of a community gaming grant, delivered by area MLAs Rick Thorpe and Bill Barisoff. The funds will help construct a lodge, cabins, trails and playgrounds.

Since 2004, the society has been working towards creating a barrier free facility for children and others with disabilities to experience nature and outdoor adventure, courting individuals, corporations and governments for donations to the cause.

It’s a project that Thorpe, who is retiring from public office in two months, said is very important to him.

“In 13 years of doing whatever we do, this is the one project that will be a memory for me forever,” he said, clearly emotional and wiping his eye as he announced the new funding. “I’m supposed to be a tough guy.”

Both Barisoff and Thorpe are solid supporters of the project, which they say seemed like a long way off when they got involved.

“It seemed like a project that we could both get behind,” said Barisoff. “Rick and I decided we could twist a few arms and make a few things happen in Victoria.”

Barisoff said the project is a great example of how people can come together to make a difference in their community and that both he and Thorpe have been proud to help support it.

“Although I am a fiscal hawk, I was taught to help those truly in need, that’s how I live my life,” said Thorpe. “These are the right things to do in society and I’m pleased we’re going to be able to help out a little.”

Amanda Lewis, a director of the society as well as being disabled herself said it’s amazing how much support they are getting from the community.

“It really is like a dream come true,” she said. “Without people like Bill Barisoff, Rick Thorpe and all the support we’ve received from the community this would not be possible.”

The core of the camp is four acres of land leased to the society by Robin Agur at a dollar a year for 99 years. That property, which had been in the Agur family for over a century and includes a large strip of lake front, was soon added to with a lease on 40 acres of crown land adjoining the Agur property.

Dan Tatham, from Coast Architectural Group, who designed the buildings, said the combination of lake front and hills represented a big challenge.

“It’s a site that everyone wants to get down to the water, yet there are hillsides everywhere,” he said, adding that since this is a special needs camp, that means designing lots of ramps to let people move about. “That will continue to be a challenge as we go along.”

Though buildings have yet to go up, Brad Hope, the vice-president of the society admits he can’t say when the camp will be finished. However, there has already been visitors using the site, he added, even while initial ground clearing and making trails wheelchair accessible has been going on.

“We’re just dedicated, for however long it takes, that’s how long its going to be. In the meantime, we’re taking kids up and doing things all the time,” said Hope. “It will be almost in full use before everything is done and the day the last nail is driven it will be fully operational.”