PENTICTON - Local historians say the latest heritage plan organized by the RDOS is not going to succeed because similar plans have always failed in the past.
A report will be made by contractors hired by the RDOS listing all the possible heritage sites in the district and how they can be restored and turned into designated heritage sites.
Similar reports on the area, all available at the Penticton Museum, have been made by various archivists, contractors and historians since 1988, yet the reports are tabled and nothing is done with the collected information, said Brian Wilson, executive director of the Okanagan Archive Trust Society.
“This will go nowhere,” Wilson says. “It will just be put in the round file like all the other studies.”
One study took 10 years, cost $70,000 and only two heritage sites — the Leir House and the S.S. Sicamous — were given designation, he says.
The biggest problem, Wilson says, is that “no one has been here more than five years.”
It’s the same people, the ones who make a living in heritage industry, who show up to events like this week’s heritage planning sessions. People just don’t care because they don’t know the area, he says.
As for tourists and visitors?
“People come and they love an old house. But they’re not really too concerned if it’s going to be around next time they’re here,” Wilson says.
And since no action is taken to save historical buildings and sites, they get torn down and their lots either remain empty or are redeveloped.
Another concern Wilson has is that the hired contractor, Denise Cook, is from North Vancouver, far away from the regional district. Wilson says, if a local won the bid, it would at least get some lobbying efforts started. It is unclear why this contractor was chosen.
Okanagan historian and author, Doug Cox attended the planning session this week, and was unimpressed with the presentation, calling it "amateur" given the funding involved.
“The rationale for these presentations seems to be the fact that the provincial government has withdrawn funding from the Grist Mill and other sites,” he says. “I’m not clear on how identifying favourite walking trails, view sites, or artisans is going to restore or promote funding for the Grist Mill in Keremeos or promote, preserve or restore local heritage sites.”
Wilson agrees. He says the Grist Mill needs to be the first priority. The site needs to be turned over to the community and needs to become an historic park, not just a site.
“This will be the only way that the Grist Mill survives,” Wilson says. “But there is no funding, the provincial government keeps cutting back funding to the Mill. Right now there is a grant to keep it open for only 100 days of the year.”
And if those with the money in their pockets don’t do something about these sites, then they will deteriorate like the rest.
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