Driving east on the Dewdney Trunk Road, you always knew you were passing through Webster’s Corners when you saw the Sampo Hall on the right and the old co-op buildings on the left.
These buildings have been part of the local landscape for so long that we’ve almost stopped seeing them as individual buildings. More than that, they form a part of our communal perception of the neighbourhood called Webster’s Corners.
But no more – last week, with no fanfare, one of the old co-op buildings came down.
Loss of familiar landmarks and historic buildings is a problem that plagues all communities. Our landmarks map our familiar world and populate our memories of place. They don’t need to be grand or flashy – they just need to be there.
A lot of buildings that were once, if not community-owned, at least communally owned are now in private hands. That is true of both the old co-ops and the Sampo Hall.
Our municipality has some good programs to offer owners who want to participate and retain their older structures. We have seen several recent agreements involving private homes that will see those homes retained as community heritage assets for the foreseeable future.
However, there is no way to force or coerce an owner to have that level of enthusiasm.
Another way for the community to acquire beloved assets is to buy them. That is the only real form of protection, but it comes at a high cost. As an owner, the municipality has to meet high standards before a building can be rented or leased for use.
How does the municipality know when buying a property is the best option? We have to tell them.
At the moment, the municipality is engaged in the creation of a Heritage Strategic Plan. The plan is meant to identify the wants and needs of the citizens of Maple Ridge for all their different neighbourhoods, then to prioritize them, given scarce resources. This is your opportunity to make your feelings known to the municipality and your fellow citizens.
Working at the museum, I often hear the complaint from people that all heritage preservation happens in Haney. Where are the preservation efforts for neighbourhoods like Webster’s Corners, Whonnock or Port Hammond? What is left to preserve there? What can we do to put back what has already been removed?
The more voices the better in matters like these. It is too easy for heritage concerns to be slid off the plate in the name of other projects.
You can make your feelings known by responding to an online survey. Or stop by the museum and pick up a paper copy.
If community history is important to you, get engaged in the process before all we’re left with is fading memories.
Val Patenaude is director of Maple Ridge Museum and Community Archives.