Expansion plans in works for Port Alberni Friendship Centre

The Port Alberni Friendship Centre needs to expand and officials hope to use city property beside the Fourth Avenue facility to grow out.

A rise in the Valley’s aboriginal population and increased facility use has prompted plans for the expansion of the Port Alberni Friendship Centre.

PAFC official Donna Samuel made the announcement at Port Alberni City Council’s Monday night meeting.

According to Samuel, the gym in the existing centre on Fourth Avenue has grown too small for the amount of people who use it. “The location has served us well but it (gym) is too small now,” Samuel said. “It’s not big enough to host the events that we do every year and we really want to expand.”

Centre officials hope to use a swath of city-owned land between the centre and bottle depot on Fourth Avenue to grow out the centre’s gym.

The facility was formerly located on Second Avenue, but moved to its existing location after its use outgrew its size.

The existing facility is approximately 8,000 square feet but the gym is only half size and that’s proved a challenge in the face of Alberni’s growing urban aboriginal demographic.

According to Statistics Canada, Port Alberni is home to more than 2,050 people who identify as aboriginal. More than 60 per cent of them live off reserve and in the city, Stats Can. noted.

The centre is the centre of gravity for much of Alberni’s urban aboriginal population, and offers a variety of educational, employment, social and cultural support services.

At the centre, the burgeoning population is over crowding the gym during Christmas dinners, Aboriginal Day celebrations and funerals. The centre also has a growing number of users for cultural and sports activities,  co-presenter Simon Lucas said.

The courtesy to the city is appreciated, Coun. Cind Solda said. “But what is the bottom line, what do you want specifically?”

The expansion is in its preliminary stages and there are more steps to be taken including fundraising, but officials want to apprise the city of their plans and suss out the availability of land either by sale or donation, Samuel said.

In response to a question from Coun. Jack McLeman, Samuel responded that discussions have been with had with city staff about the initiative, but that they were cursory in nature.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com