The Merriwake, a former Japanese Canadian fishing boat undergoing restoration to be displayed in Slocan, is among the latest additions to the RDCK heritage register. File photo

The Merriwake, a former Japanese Canadian fishing boat undergoing restoration to be displayed in Slocan, is among the latest additions to the RDCK heritage register. File photo

RDCK community heritage register adds 21 sites

Nearly a third of the sites relate to Japanese internment camps in the Slocan Valley

John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Regional District of Central Kootenay has added another 21 buildings and places to its community heritage register.

The register, established in April, helps preserve places “with aesthetic, historic, scientific, cultural, social, or spiritual significance for present and future generations,” planning officials say.

Nearly a third of the 21 sites added to the register are in the Slocan Valley, and remember one of the darker periods of Canadian history – Japanese internment camps. Six of the camps, which housed Canadians of Japanese descent during the Second World War, have been included.

Also making the list from this area are the historic townsite of Sandon, including its cemetery and museum; the City of Ainsworth shipwreck in Kootenay Lake; the Vallican Heritage Hall; the Merriwake, a Japanese-Canadian fishing boat being restored by the Slocan Valley Historical Society; and the Billy Clark cabin in Meadow Creek.

This is a second intake for the newly established community heritage register. An initial five locations were selected earlier this year.

Most of the listings are already on federal or provincial lists of historically important sites, says Dana Hawkins, a planner with the RDCK.

They were chosen for inclusion now as a kind of housekeeping exercise, to get the RDCK’s efforts to preserve its heritage sites on solid ground.

“The advantage of also including these sites on RDCK’s local register is, should any change affecting them be proposed, leadership around their conservation can come from the RDCK in collaboration with the identifier of the heritage resource and the land owner as well as interested/affiliated community groups,” Hawkins wrote in a report to the board. That means should local government receive a request to alter or demolish a structure on the register, staff will be immediately alerted of its historical importance.

As well, by being on the registry, the owners or stewards of those sites could have access to preservation funds.

“The other exciting thing is many of these are being maintained or restored by not-for-profits, so being on our register can open the doors to more funding opportunities for them,” she says.

More than 300 sites were identified as historically, culturally or socially important in the regional district during public consultations held in the fall of 2019. The process has been funded by the Columbia Basin Trust and Heritage BC.

Hawkins says if residents are interested in learning more or want to get involved in preserving local heritage, they can visit the RDCK’s new planning and heritage commission web page. The site also has a map providing more information about all 300 sites already identified as important.

“It’s a big catalogue,” she says. “Plus there’s a nomination form, so if you see something that we don’t know about already, you can nominate it and we can add to the ‘places that matter’ map.

“It’s not meant to be a static thing. We hope to keep it alive, so hopefully as time goes on, new sites will be raised and we’ll keep adding onto it.”

— From the Valley Voice

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