There may be a little more life yet in the Morden Mine.
The 100-year-old, seven-storey-tall cement coal tipple south of Nanaimo continues to crumble, but there is renewed hope that it may be restored.
The Friends of Morden Mine Society, which indicated last year it was suspending its efforts, has been refreshed with new board members who have new ideas they’d like to try.
Many in the city have recognized there is value in trying to preserve the structure. But when that value is weighed against the $2.8-million estimated repair bill, the decision isn’t so straightforward. We understand why there has been hesitancy from levels of government to get involved. We think the project should receive funding, though not at any cost.
The society plans to take a different tack, though. It’s hoping to find a cement business, for example, to make the sort of donation that could help make restoration more financially feasible. If it can collect enough support from the private sector, then it can go back to government and ask for a more modest handout.
The coal tipple and headframe are the centrepiece of Morden Colliery Historic Park, a provincial park created in the 1970s. There is arguably some responsibility for the province to help preserve the history. The park has unrealized tourism potential, with a visually impressive historical structure juxtaposed with nature and recreation opportunities. At the same time, we understand that there are hundreds of provincial parks to maintain and improve, many with compelling cases for prioritized funding.
The previous Friends of Morden Mine board had the right intentions and made interesting arguments, and the newest iteration might be much the same as the last one. Perhaps they’re simply continuing to bang their heads against cement pillars. That said, new energy can only help the cause when the alternative is to simply let the concrete crumble.