TRU won’t hold title to Wells Gray land, but it’ll still be used

The university is unable to hold the title, but will be able to use land for everything it was intended for, including classes, research and Clearwater community activities

Thompson Rivers University won’t be able to hold the title to the land that was donated to it back in 2014, but the university is still able to make use of the land near Wells Gray Provincial Park for research.

Seventy-six acres of land adjacent to a 10-acre holding that houses the university’s Research and Education Centre near Clearwater, B.C. was donated to TRU last year. It was previously forested and used for agriculture, and provides a prime area to conduct research into land reclamation.

The transfer of ownership fell through because TRU doesn’t qualify to receive lands as an “ecological gift,” according to Dean of Science Tom Dickinson. In order to receive the land as an ecological gift, the Canada Revenue Agency’s website said that the receiving organization’s main purpose must be “the conservation and protection of Canada’s environmental heritage.”

To receive the land as an ecological gift, TRU would have had to create a separate organization with a conservation mandate.

In lieu of holding title on the land, TRU has been granted stewardship of the property, which Dickinson says will allow the university to use the land for its intended purposes.

In addition to access to more land in the Clearwater and Wells Gray area, preliminary work has begun on upgrades to the classroom building, with the assignment of project managers and interviewing tradespeople.

“We use the area all the time,” said John Karakatsoulis, chair of the Natural Resource Science (NRS) program, adding that the TRU Research and Education Centre is used by both the university and the Clearwater community.

“Not only [does the classroom] enhance teaching and research, but it also benefits the community.”

Both Dickinson and Karakatsoulis said that NRS students of all levels and students in other programs frequently use the centre, with classes going up to the site at least once a year. Some of the activities that are held in the area include inventories of plant communities, soil research and other class projects.

The new building, which was redesigned, has received permission to begin construction. It will feature sleeping, kitchen, laundry and showering facilities for the 20 students that it can hold. The facilities can also be used by visiting scholars as a base for research in the Wells Gray Provincial Park area.

Karakatsoulis described the significance of the classroom in the park as a “nice synergy” between TRU, Clearwater and Wells Gray.

The construction project for the new classroom building was previously reported last year to be worth $340,000.

TRU has owned the education centre in Clearwater since 1994.