BY ERIC RICKER
A news item and editorial in the Jan. 12 issue fail to address what’s really at issue when examining Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park’s potential and its future.
First, in the news item, MLA Doug Routley said that the new board of directors “aim to have a more open mind to different solutions than what’s been considered and seek the support of local and international businesses.” This assertion is simply false. The board has always been open to the idea of business involvement and in fact our delegation to then Environment Minister Terry Lake back in 2012 proposed such involvement as a way to get Morden fixed and further developed. Subsequently we twice made presentations to local business leaders on this theme. The only restriction we have ever observed is that Morden’s restoration and development should be a non-partisan project.
Secondly, the editorial states that there is “arguably some responsibility for the province to help … At the same time we understand that there are hundreds of provincial parks, many with compelling cases for prioritized funding.” It’s hard to imagine a case stronger than Morden’s and it’s more than just arguable that the province should assume responsibility for its own park. The province owns the property and therefore controls Morden’s fate – even if it chooses to do nothing, which is its current posture.
But there is more to it than this. Morden is the only provincial park dedicated to mining – an industry which the premier frequently cites as a government priority – and it is also the most important heritage structure that remains from pioneer Vancouver Island coal-mining days. It’s contradictory to let a provincial park dedicated to mining heritage go to rack and ruin while at the same time espousing a large-scale expansion of the mining industry.
Equally important, Morden is a heritage site of international significance. Morden was the third reinforced concrete tipple constructed and is the second oldest surviving anywhere in the world. There isn’t another provincial park for which such claims can be made. But as the Read Jones Christoffersen engineering study of 2014 makes clear, major repairs are needed immediately if Morden is to be saved. Unfortunately, given the need, the baby-steps approach now being advocated really isn’t practical.
Finally, it’s more than just a shame that a park of such terrific tourism potential – even in its dilapidated state it attracts tour groups – is being neglected while the government continues to spend millions acquiring new parkland in inaccessible areas relatively few people will ever see. This situation alone speaks to the need for a review of policy priorities and of proper public engagement in policy-making processes at the senior levels of management at B.C. Parks.
Eric W. Ricker is former co-president of Friends of the Morden Mine society.