$2.6 million cabin expansion set for spring

Secret’s out on hidden community gem and it’s soon to get even better!

By DAWN BOOTH, Connect Weekly

Eric Williams, Sarah Murrant, Lonnie Pilgrim, Bill Brook, Veronica Bart and Phil Meagh- er were at the Doug Barnes Cabin representing the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and The Ptarmigan Nordic Ski Club. Construction for the $2.6 million cabin expansion begins in April. Photo by Dawn Booth, Connect Weekly

Eric Williams, Sarah Murrant, Lonnie Pilgrim, Bill Brook, Veronica Bart and Phil Meagh- er were at the Doug Barnes Cabin representing the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and The Ptarmigan Nordic Ski Club. Construction for the $2.6 million cabin expansion begins in April. Photo by Dawn Booth, Connect Weekly

Representatives from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) and The Ptarmigan Nordic Ski Club (PNSC) hosted a public information session for the upcoming $2.6 million Doug Barnes Cabin expansion project on February 27.

Sarah Murrant, Public Affairs Coordinator at the RMWB, was on-site for the session.

“We had an estimated 75 residents come out today,” Murrant enthused on the turnout. She said attendees included a mix of outdoor enthusiasts, ski club members and local neighbours.

The Doug Barnes Cabin is located at the edge of the Birchwood Trail System, just steps away from the hustle and bustle of Fort McMurray’s urban setting in Thickwood Heights. Owned by the municipality, it has been operated and maintained by the ski club since 1977.

RMWB Ward 1 Councillor Phil Meagher is an active cross-country skier and member of the PNSC as the Youth Coaching Director. He has helped facilitate the club for many years.

Meagher describes the cabin as once being “Fort McMurray’s best kept secret,” and said as the population in the region has grown, so have the demands to use the facility.

The current space allows a capacity of 45 people. The ski club has an estimated 350 members.

With the club, social profits and residents actively using the space throughout the year, the PNSC presented an expansion request in January 2014.

“Eric (Williams, Vice President of the PNSC) was the pushing behind it. He said we have a chance to get the funding for this,” Meagher explained.

The request was granted and approved by RMWB Council in July 2015, as part of the municipality’s 2015-2015 Strategic Plan – Building a Strong and Resilient Community.

“Eric (Williams, Vice President of the PNSC) was the pushing behind it. He said we have a chance to get the funding for this,” Meagher explained.

One of the goals in the municipality’s strategic plan is to “connect people and communities through accessible, regional-based leisure and wellness activities, programs and public gathering places.”

RMWB’s Manager of Community Strategies Monica Lance stated in a release: “By expanding this facility, we’re developing a community asset that supports healthy living and that can be enjoyed by athletes and residents alike.”

The RMWB’s website further states the proposed expansion plans will increase the usability by providing “a full basement with a walk-out to the trail, a commercial kitchen, a board room, expanded common area, expanded storage area and an overall ability to be used for countless community activities.” The original cabin will be kept intact.

“We had a lot of input. I brought back ideas from Fairbanks, Alaska. That was a beautiful facility, they have up there,” Meagher explained. “For the town our size, and the club we have, this is probably what’s going to work best.”

Being a frequent traveller to many ski clubs around the Province, and the world. Meagher said he and fellow club members shared their ideas on the expansion design and concept.

“We had a lot of input. I brought back ideas from Fairbanks, Alaska. That was a beautiful facility, they have up there,” Meagher explained. “For the town our size, and the club we have, this is probably what’s going to work best.”

According to the municipality, 60 per cent of the detailed design is now complete and ground breaking for construction is set to take place in April.

RMWB’s Supervisor of Building Life Cycle William Brook said the project is expected to be completed by December 2016. Due to safety precautions, Brook further mentioned the public will not have access to the cabin during construction period.

For more information, please visit rmwb.ca/dougbarnescabin.

-Connect Weekly-