Where is that new museum?
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked that question, we’d have a new museum up and running.
The project to add capacity to our existing museum facilities has a lengthy history of its own.
In 1997, the Maple Ridge Historical Society began exploring options for expansion as it was clear that we had outgrown the current building space.
Even then, we only had about seven to eight per cent of the collection on display and the archives were even less accessible.
We began with the obvious plan of expanding on our current site. After all, it is two acres of mostly grass, so there was plenty of room.
We soon found out that the park we are in has a covenant on it specifically forbidding any other buildings on the site.
When the Fraserview apartments were being developed, the official set-aside for parkland was Brickwood Park.
Smaller Jim Hadgkiss Park was an additional donation to the municipality by the Baynes family to preserve the remaining brickyard buildings and more green space along the river.
We spent two years on two different plans to expand on our current site anyway, with additions to the existing museum building in different configurations hoping to get the Baynes family to vary the covenant, but it was not to be.
In 1999, we started looking for a new location.
After a full day workshop with council, historical society members, municipal staff and other interested parties, the location chosen was the property north of Haney House on 224th Street.
At that time, there was no land available in the town core. What dominated the planning at that time was a desire to keep the museum precinct in Port Haney and connected by the Heritage River Walk.
The land north of Haney House was purchased in 2001 and the historical society embarked on a season of renewal to expand and professionalize itself and its financial management to be worthy to take on a greater role.
That accomplished, we finished off 2003 by issuing a request for proposals, then spent 2004-05 working with architect Sharif Senbel and design group KARO on a concept plan for a new museum.
That plan was presented to council and the greater community early in 2006, then everything ground to a halt.
There have been occasional attempts over the ensuing years to revive the project, but none have been successful.
For that reason, we welcomed Ian McLennan and Bruce Cooke – museum development professionals with 90 years of experience between them – to a gathering on Sept. 25 to discuss how to get our stalled project moving again.
According to these professionals, what we need most is a champion – someone with youth and passion and connections to lead the charge and drive the project.
It would take an extraordinary person, but the benefits to that person would be many, including a vastly increased public profile and the chance to bring to the community a new gem that would be remembered forever.
And that’s immortality, isn’t it?
Val Patenaude is director of the Maple Ridge Museum.