A petition calling for the preservation of Hope’s 1916 Station House, slated for demolition this year, has received over 1,000 signatures.
The petition asks District of Hope councillors to take “immediate action to prevent the destruction of one of Hope’s only and most beautiful historic buildings.” As of Jan. 13, the online petition had 1,334 signatures.
Citing a 200 per cent return on investment in dollars spent on heritage, the petition asks the district to consider the financial and cultural benefits that could flow from the preservation of the Station House. “The Station House building has so much intrinsic value due to its age and beauty, and to the role it has played in the vibrant history of our area,” the petition stated, adding that it would also be a significant draw for tourists.
The petition asks council to spend the time now, when COVID-19 has effectively halted both international and domestic tourism, to reimagine how the station house could become a key component of marketing the town as a tourist destination rather than “an uninteresting fast food stop on their way to somewhere else.”
A renovated station house could become a ‘must see’ destination, an Instagrammable photo opportunity and a reason for travellers who might otherwise cruise past Hope to stop in the petition stated.
Crafted by Erica and Christian Ward, the petition offers options for what the building could house if restored. Options including interactive guided tours, historical information and artifacts including Indigenous history, arts and crafts as well as a potential spot for educational outreach.
“Because our town depends on tourism, I think it’s important to try to compete on as many different levels as possible,” Erica said, referencing other tourist towns like Nelson. “We can compete on scenic beauty, we can compete on outdoor activities and attractions. But then if you think about the urban fabric or the urban landscape, they’re focused on heritage conservation as a whole extra dimension to their appeal.” Or closer to home, Agassiz is another example where heritage buildings form part of the urban fabric.
Preserving a historic building also has “intrinsic value” at a time when, over time, historic buildings are torn down across the province. “They’re quite vulnerable but they’re just so important in terms of having that beauty and uniqueness in the urban landscape,” she said.
Erica aknowledged that there are a diversity of views on what to do, or not to, with Station House in the community. Some are concerned around what the cost of keeping Station House would cost.
“I hear people’s concerns but there’s potential there that grants may be available with the rules around heritage having changed,” she said, referencing the power of municipalities under the Local Government Act to recognize the heritage value or character of a heritage property. More information about this can be found at heritagebc.ca.
“We appreciate that this building has already been the subject of much debate, and that there are complex issues involved. However, we strongly believe that resorting to demolishing the Station House on the basis of difficulties in the past, would be a case of ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’” the petition concluded.
While the petition isn’t a “plea to save the Station House at all costs,” Erica stated by email, she is concerned that those involved haven’t fully considered the revenue potential, as well as the intangible value to the community of preserving the building.
Erica has submitted the petition to Hope’s council and has spoken to Mayor Peter Robb, who told her the district’s hands are tied because of the legal settlement with the province. “I‘m running out of ways to say the station house will be moving forward for demolition,” Robb stated in an email to the Hope Standard. “I spoke to Erica Ward and explained to her again about the settlement. We have a binding legal agreement with the province which is in the district’s favour.”
Erica has also turned to the province’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) to share the concerns locally around the demolition of Station House. “Is there a way to reconsider the demolition being a part of the legal agreement with the district and is there something else that can be done?” Erica would like to know from this level of government.
In response to questions from the Hope Standard, MOTI stated that the district, as owner of the building, is responsible for making decisions regarding the building’s operation and future. “All questions regarding the building should be directed to the District,” MOTI stated.
“The aim of my letter and petition still holds,” Erica said. “I would like all of the parties involved to reconsider the future financial and cultural benefits that the preservation could bring.”
While the station house demolition isn’t yet a fait accompli, it is slated for early this year. Robb confirmed that the request for a quote to get this work completed will be issued before Jan. 22.