Relocation of Quesnel's giant gold pan shakes up controversy - InfoNews

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Relocation of Quesnel's giant gold pan shakes up controversy

The Quesnel gold pan, in its original position at the intersection of Highway 97 and 26.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Debra McKelvie
June 04, 2020 - 10:00 AM

Residents of a B.C. town are divided over the relocation of their beloved landmark.

The City of Quesnel plans to move its giant gold pan from its current location as a part of a city-wide rebranding initiative.

Many residents are strongly opposed to its relocation, and have taken to social media to voice their displeasure.

"There's a bit of a disinformation campaign in the community," Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson said.

He said despite what some believe, the gold pan is "a marketing gimmick symbol" that has no historical significance.

The City decided to move the gold pan from the intersection of Highway 97 and 26 to the Rocky Mountaineers Train Station.

The mayor explains the train station has historical significance, and is more accessible to tourists. 

However, those in opposition argue that the gold pan should remain in its current location, where it has stood for 33 years.

Among the dissenters is City Councillor Ron Paull, who initially proposed the construction of the gold pan following EXPO 86.

While he may not agree with the relocation of the gold pan, Paull sees its relocation as an opportunity to make history.

Although the pan measures 22 feet in diameter, it is not officially the world's largest gold pan, for one simple reason.

According to Guinness Book of World Records, the pan is just a sign until it is used to actually pan gold.

By the time Paull realized this in 1986, the pan was already erected and there was nothing to be done.  

"Since the city is going to move the gold pan, why don't we shake some gold out of it?" he said. "We could document that and send it in to the Guinness Book."

However, when he made the suggestion to Mayor Bob Simpson, Paull said he was shut down.

This was not the only point of contention in council, as Paull has long been outspoken against the new location.

One of the main reasons he's against it is due to lack of visibility.

"They have poured the foundation for the location of this gold pan crammed up against the wall of the existing train station," he said.

"If you're northbound on Highway 97, you won’t even see the gold pan until you’re past it."

Paull said that the initial proposition to relocate the gold pan was "discretely buried" within the new signage plan, which was brought to council in 2018.

The only other time the gold pan was voted on in council was to choose between three new locations, he said. 

Debra McKelvie, who is leading the protest against relocation, alleged that the matter was only made public about seven months ago.

"The big thing that we’re all upset about is the transparency hasn’t been there," she said. "There’s been a lot of dishonesty around the whole due process."

McKelvie organized a petition, which was presented to council with 500 signatures. She said the mayor wasn't swayed.

"It’s his way or the highway, and people don’t take too kindly to that," she said. 

Simpson maintains the decision was made in the public domain two years ago, and the relocation will continue as planned.

"You’ve got people in Quesnel protesting moving a symbolic legacy artifact to a better location, when we may be losing another 200 jobs in our community. We don’t know yet what the impact of COVID is on our local economy," he said.

"We’ve got real problems as a community, I wouldn’t characterize moving the gold pan to a better location as a real problem worthy of protest."

While Paull isn't optimistic that residents' opposition will change the mayor's mind, he plans to keep fighting up until the end.

McKelvie will also continue to oppose the relocation.

"The people that are against the relocation have just been completely disregarded and ignored," she said. "We’re not going away and we’re going to keep fighting."

She argues that the current location of the gold pan is perfect, and that moving it is a waste of money better used elsewhere.

"Spending that kind of money when we have a lot of other capital projects on the go is, to me, just irresponsible," she said.

Simpson said the total cost for relocating and refurbishing the landmark will fall between seven and ten thousand dollars. 

The project was delayed due to COVID-19, so a date for relocation has not yet been set.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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