Princeton residents tackle local concerns at first community forum

Health care, poverty, youth engagement and trails all discussed

Health care, encouraging volunteers, tourism, economic development, trails, poverty and affordable housing were among the pressing local issues identified by a group of citizens that met Sunday in a community forum hosted by local author Jon Bartlett.

About 20 people attended the forum at the library, the first in a series of discussion groups planned leading up to the 2018 municipal election in October.

The first meeting, Bartlett said at the outset, would decide what future forums will address.

“Our purpose here today is threefold. Talk, listen and learn,” said Bartlett, who also moderated the event.

Bartlett said the forums are not intended to produce action items, but to gather information and opinions and pass them on to other groups in the community.

Ed Staples, president of the Support our Health Care Society, got the conversation started.

“The big issue for me and I think it’s the big issue for any community is the state of our health care.”

John Henry, a member of the Vermilion Forks Field Naturalists, introduced the controversial issue of trail use.

“I would just like to make sure that all the trails in town, the KVR, remain non-motorized.”

There was no debate on the statement, although Vermilion Trails Society president and mayoral candidate Leona Guerster pointed out later in the meeting that Princeton now has the second largest ATV club in BC.

Councillors Rosemary Doughty and Jerome Tjerkstra also attended the forum.

Ways to support volunteer and non profit groups, ways to include youth in Princeton activities and political culture, as well as new ideas to attract businesses were all discussed.

Doughty said she has spoken to fellow councillors about holding some council meetings at the high school as a way to engage youth.

“That’s a work in progress,” she said.

Many participants spoke about their concerns regarding poverty in Princeton and the need for more affordable housing.

Nearing the close of the meeting Bartlett commented: “Nobody has mentioned the pool yet. That surprises me.”

“I don’t think it’s a real hot topic yet,” said school district chair Gordon Comeau, noting funding for the project has not yet been secured.

The pool was not listed as one of the group’s topics for future discussion.

The next forum will be held February 4 at 2 p.m. and the topics on the agenda are health care and economic development.

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