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New Maple Ridge heritage plan ready

Maple Ridge is soon to have a blueprint for saving its history as growth continues, thanks to the Community Heritage Commission Heritage Plan.

Council had its first look at the plan last week and will review it after language has been adjusted.

The plan replaces an 18-year-old document and will stay in place until 2020.

“I think it’s going a ways down the road to identify what we have and what we can do to preserve it,” said Mayor Ernie Daykin.

The plan will set out direction for Maple Ridge’s community heritage commission and offers a work schedule for the next seven years. Next year will focus on creating a communications strategy that will use a variety of media.

“Maple Ridge has a very solid program,” for heritage preservation, consultant Donald Luxton told council.

The year after that, 2015, Maple Ridge’s heritage inventory will be updated, reflecting the fact that some sites have been torn down while new potential sites have been identified.

In 2016, a review of the strategies and incentives for heritage preservation takes place, followed the next year by a focus on Canada’s 150th birthday.

In the last two years of the plan, the commission will strengthen ties with community groups and make historic information more accessible.

Some of the goals of the new plan include defining a clear pathway to achieving a heritage vision, inspiring public participation and awareness about saving heritage and identifying any gaps that get in the way of preserving the past.

Maple Ridge’s heritage planning dates back to 1979 with the designation of Haney House on 224th Street as a heritage site.

According to the heritage plan, preserving old buildings is “inherently sustainable” because it maintains existing land uses and infrastructure. Preserving the past also spurs tourism and enhances cities as their population densities increase.

Maple Ridge currently has a heritage register with 28 properties listed.

Once on the register, if an owner wants to demolish a building, he or she has to first notify the district and wait several weeks to see if alternatives to demolition can be found.

There is also a larger heritage inventory that lists historically valuable buildings. However, there’s no legal protection afforded such properties.

A smaller list of 10 designated heritage sites, such as the Bill Miner Pub and Haney House, all have bylaws requiring their preservation, some with heritage revitalization agreements allowing rebuilding in return for tax breaks.

The plan, though, points out that the incentives to preserve old buildings are “minimal” and are not resulting in more heritage designated sites and says the district could offer more incentives.

While council’s expected to pass the plan at its next meeting, it likely will be a while before that is coupled with a strategy for a new Maple Ridge Museum and Archives.

In 2004-2005, a consultant was hired and a design done for a new museum on the district-owned lot on 224th Street, just north of Haney House.

Nothing’s happened since and a new museum, pegged almost a decade ago at $6 million, still has not made it on to the district’s five-year capital plan.

Heritage commission chairman Craig Speirs said a museum can be an economic driver for a community, attracting people who want to learn about an area.

“We have a good story. Ninety-nine per cent of our goods are in storage. We can’t tell our story.”

He said if the 224th Street location isn’t used, money from selling that property could pay for part of the construction costs for a museum elsewhere.

“As long as it’s in town and it’s accessible, that’s the bottom line.”

The cramped quarters in the 100-year-old house in the former brickyard along the Haney Bypass only allows for display of about three per cent of the museum’s heritage inventory.

“We are so constrained in our ability to share this stuff with the community because there’s nowhere to give them access to it,” museum director Val Patenaude said.

And she’s not sure if that’s a good location anymore.

“I think we should seriously consider a location closer to the centre.”

A new museum should be close to a bus station and parking to allow more visitors, making such a project more viable, she said.

One location could be next to Memorial Peace Park next to the new Target parking lot.

Mayor Ernie Daykin, though, said that’s not likely.

“It would be a really tough sell, I think,” said Daykin. “That space is so well used now. We’re not going to get any more green space.”

Daykin suggested he location of the former Haney Bingo Plex, if it is redeveloped, just as an example.

“Maybe there’s a way we work that into some sort of redevelopment process.”

But council has yet to find the money to build a new museum.

“I don’t know when we can have that chat about getting it into the capital plan.”

The district also owns three acres along Selkirk Avenue at 226th Street which it’s trying to sell, but Patenaude said she hadn’t thought about that as a museum site.

“I think there’s always been support for us … more so on council than senior staff,” who prefer to spend money on police, fire and soccer fields, she added.

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