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REPORTING · 26th August 2015
Walter McFarlane
Councillor Larry Walker wanted an update on what was going to happen to the Christmas Tree located on the Hospital site at the Council Meeting on Monday, August 17th. He brought this forward with an item from the Information package, a short report regarding the subdivision of the Haisla Town Centre.

Gwendolyn Sewell, director of Community Planning and Development for the District of Kitimat told Council the Gyro Club was going to address this on a meeting, which took place on Thursday, August 20th. At this meeting, they discussed whether they would support a new tree or relocate the existing tree to a location on park land near the Haisla Town Centre Site.

Sewell also stated there was a proposal for an amphitheatre where the community could gather for other events as well. However, before moving forward, the District was waiting for feedback from the club.

“It is a project that has some potential, but we’re not committed to it at this time,” said Sewell.

At the meeting of Council on the 17th, Goffinet wanted to know about two items relating to the town centre relating to the covenant concerning the forest behind the Town Centre. He was told one of the covenants was being cancelled as a piece of land was being transferred to the District. The other had been registered.

At the committee of the Whole Meeting on Monday, August 24th, Chris Rigoni from the Kitimat Gyro Club got up to speak about the tree. He introduced the Gyro Club and the history of the tree.

“To my knowledge, it goes back to the late sixties. Some say it was started by a club named Jaycees.,” said Rigoni. “In the early 1970s, the Gyro Walter Bors of Kitimat Iron took on the responsibility of decorating the Christmas tree. The Christmas Tree reminded them of a little tradition of his native Germany. He believed it would be something cheerful for the patients in the old Hospital, as well as their community.”

Rigoni explained, over the years, the Gyro Club worked hard to string the lights and make the tree more visible, although he commented the tree has grown so much, the lights can no longer be seen. They met with Kerkhoff Construction concerning the removal of the tree, and it is unlikely the tree will survive being moved.

It has been suggested there is a new site where a tree could go in the stretch of green space between the Haisla Town Centre and the roadway.

“It will be possible to remove and refurbish the ornamental tree star and mount it on the new tree. This would provide some continuance from the old to the new, and show a gesture of respect to past president Walter Bors and those who assisted him in all those years. They Gyro Club is supportive of this plan,” said Rigoni.

He told the Council they are looking for a type of blue spruce which does not grow higher then 30 feet. The Haisla will cover the cost for the new lights for the tree, as well as the cost to plant it in the new location. The Gyro’s will be responsible for the decorating of the tree, and have come up with schematics for the power supply.

“We have to be realistic, and understand that we are probably not going to have the Christmas tree planted this year, unless the District, the Haisla and Kerkhoff Construction come together in an effort to make it possible,” concluded Rigoni.

Councillor Larry Walker asked if the existing tree will be left until after Christmas. He was told it would be taken down.

Walker also asked if they were looking for a seedling or an adult tree. He was told the Kitimat Landscaping was looking for a tree 15 feet in height. The cost would be $5000-$6000.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff asked if the Christmas tree plaza has been discussed. He was told this was what swung the decision.

Councillor Edwin Empinado thanked him for leading the discussions with the Haisla and the developers. Councillor Rob Goffinet echoed this thanks.

“We’re kind of building a new Kitimat at the moment,” said Goffinet.

A report to Council from Sewell, showed a proposed diagram for the park plaza. It includes a stage for presentations and amphitheatre seating.

“Cost must be determined, but is expected to exceed $200,000. The Haisla First Nation will be a project partner. If concept has Gyro Club and Council Support, a cost estimate will be provided to Council to consider at time of 2016 budget deliberations,” wrote Sewell.

She wrote they hope to have initial work completed and a tree in place for December 2015. Work could begin in 2016 and could be done in phases if needed.

Later in the meeting, Councillor Goffinet moved a motion for Kitimat Council to approve the concept plan for a Christmas Tree Plaza adjacent to Haisla Town Centre in Principal and that it be considered for the 2016 budget.

“I was very pleased that the Gyro Club, with a long history with the Christmas tree concept for Kitimat is endorsing, is proactive, and is already planning for this future Christmas Tree plaza. I agree. The development of that property will, unfortunately see the removal of the old tree but it will spawn a brand new tree that will be as good as and as beautiful as, and a plaza more accessible by the people driving by, but I’m very impressed that you can go there in winter and sit around and enjoy the lights and the snow, as well as just speeding by in a car,” said Goffinet.

Walker suggested thanking the Haisla Nation and Kerkhoff Construction for their monetary contributions to this venture. Councillor Mary Murphy suggested this year, the District make other parts of town festive in addition to the Christmas tree.

The motion was called and carried.
Stewart. B.C.
Comment by Cem on 28th August 2015
After being in Stewart for a few days I was impressed with their covered picnic areas, which we were so glad to see as we had brought our picnic lunch with us. Something to think about for Kitimat since we have similar weather. Check it out on line.