Sustainable Funding Needed for Provincial Heritage Sites

Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens

At the end of May 2021, six Provincial Heritage Site operators sent the following letter to the Minister of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations (this ministry oversees provincially owned heritage sites). Sites like Point Ellice House have faced chronic under funding of operations since the early 2000s. When under funding is combined with a pandemic and extreme weather events we find the historic places that we manage on behalf of the people of British Columbia are facing a crisis situation. Please help us advocate for the future of these sites – consider writing a letter or email to Minister Conroy (LNRO.Minister@gov.bc.ca) and your local MLA. To make it easy for you to send your own correspondence, we have created a letter template:


25 May 2021

Honourable Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development

Re: Sustainable Funding for Provincial Heritage Sites

Dear Minister Conroy,

We write to you as the operators of British Columbia’s provincially-owned heritage sites, a group of 6 organizations with hundreds of staff and volunteers who are tasked with caring for these properties, buildings, artifacts, and stories that belong to the people of BC.

We would like to acknowledge the investments that the government has recently made at these sites – this support has allowed us to catch up on much needed conservation and address emergency repairs. We have worked closely with the Heritage Branch to use this funding in a targeted and efficient manner. Yet, as we look beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, we remain deeply concerned about a return to status-quo funding for these provincially-owned resources. To date, various BC governments have viewed provincial heritage properties as a group of buildings that only require investment when a crisis situation arises. Indeed, a 2007 report commissioned by the Province describes the situation in this way:

A general problem is perceived as being the sites’ failure to generate sufficient revenues to meet expenses. As a consequence, the integrity of the historic resources is being placed at risk by insufficient investment and maintenance. Site operations are considered to be unsustainable. Without meaningful change, many of the properties – which are so important to the heritage of British Columbia and the economies of their communities – are destined for closure and failure (Provincial Heritage Properties Sustainability Study, July 2007, p. iii). 

Unfortunately, this meaningful change has yet to come about and one-time funding is not a sustainable or strategic approach to these larger issues. Currently, funding from the Heritage Branch (under the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations) is available for infrastructure improvements, but the amount available is not sufficient to clear the deferred maintenance backlog and address new issues such as flooding or forest fires. Furthermore, site programming is rarely funded by the Heritage Branch, making it difficult to update the visitor experience and reach new audiences with the stories of British Columbia. It is time for the Province to understand its heritage sites as more than a set of buildings that require investment at the point of crisis – we are calling on the government to give the Heritage Branch the resources and mandate required to help us steward these sites for the people of BC through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Our staff, volunteers, and communities understand how dynamic and important these sites are for understanding BC’s past, present, and future. Site operators should be provided with long-term and sustainable funding that can support local economies, climate change adaptation, truth and reconciliation, and public engagement. If the government has a vision for the future of British Columbia, its heritage sites should be a part of it.

At your earliest convenience, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss this situation with you further.

Sincerely,

Kelly Black (Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens)

Kate Cox (Barkerville Historic Town and Park & Cottonwood House)

Kate Kerr (Carr House)

Jo-Anne Leon (Kilby Historic Site)

Don Pearse (Historic Hat Creek Ranch)

Margaret Stubson (Yale Historic Site)

Cc:

Hon. John Horgan, Premier

Hon. Nathan Cullen, Minister of State for Lands and Natural Resource Operations

Hon. Rob Fleming, MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake

Kelli Paddon, MLA for Chilliwack-Kent 

Grace Lore, MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill

Coralee Oakes, MLA for Cariboo North

Jackie Tegart, MLA for Fraser-Nicola

Teresa Wat, MLA for Richmond North Centre

John Rustad, MLA for Nechako Lakes

Pam Alexis, MLA for Mission-Abbotsford 

Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley 

Richard Linzey, Director, Heritage Branch

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