The official opening of a “FrontCounter BC” office in Castlegar was welcomed Thursday as an opportunity to turn the city into a regional hub for people looking to make use of Crown land.
“This fills a void between Cranbrook and Kamloops,” said Garth Wiggill , a district manager with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
FrontCounter BC offices are billed as a “one-stop shop” for business and individuals looking for permits, authorizations or information related to a wide variety of activities that take place on Crown land.
Wiggill said that can include everything from commercial activities like logging and road construction to recreational activities like fishing and snowmobiling.
Newly appointed Forests Minister Steve Thomson was on hand for the opening at the ministry’s Castlegar office on Thursday afternoon.
“I know the FrontCounter service that we’ve had in other communities has been very, very successful,” Thomson told a small gathering of ministry staff and local media.
“We’re very pleased to be over here in Castlegar.”
The advantage of the service, Thomson added, is that it helps guide private citizens and businesses through the often arcane processes that come with government regulation of natural resources, which can often span multiple ministries and jurisdictions.
“It allows the decisions and authorizations to be provided through a one-stop process, locally,” he said.
Wiggill said FrontCounter BC staff will do all the background work related to a particular request and provide a single point of contact for clients.
Mayor Lawrence Chernoff welcomed the move and said he hopes it will lead to more employment at the ministry’s office in Castlegar.
“We lost jobs out of here, so hopefully this will give us a couple more jobs back here,” he said. “I’d like to fill this office up completely with other forestry people, if that’s possible.”
Chernoff noted as well that he and other city councillors are continuing to press the provincial government to consider the advantages of locating more regional services in Castlegar.
“There’s an opportunity for other ministries to put people here, because it’s centrally located,” he said.
Thursday’s opening makes Castlegar’s office the ninth FrontCounter BC location in the province. The others are located in Cranbrook, Kamloops, Fort St. John, Nanaimo, Prince George, Smithers, Surrey and Williams Lake.
The Castlegar office is located at 845 Columbia Ave. and its hours are Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., closing for one hour at noon each day.