The Grist Mill at Keremeos is one of the regional heritage sites adapting to a new economic climate.

The Grist Mill at Keremeos is one of the regional heritage sites adapting to a new economic climate.

Heritage strategy will set region’s political priorities

Regional district awards $56,850 contract to consultant to develop plan to identify, protect and capitalize on heritage assets

History will be updated in the months ahead as a consultant begins drawing up a comprehensive list of the region’s heritage sites and, in some cases, recommending ways to help them turn a profit.

It’s hoped the new plan will help the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen adjust to a shift in a senior government’s attitude towards places with historical value.

“The direction from the provincial government is to move away from these interpretive sites where you go and people are dressed in period costumes and there’s really no cost recovery there,” explained Lindsay Bourque, rural projects co-ordinator for the RDOS.

“They’re looking towards using heritage sites that speak to their value and their historic presence in the region, but (also) offer new economic development opportunities.”

The RDOS board earlier this month awarded a $56,850 contract to a North Vancouver firm that will update an inventory of the region’s heritage sites, then develop a plan to protect, and capitalize on those assets, and provide assistance to local heritage societies with paperwork associated with grant applications.

Bourque said the RDOS board made the heritage strategy a priority this year, although the consultant’s final report isn’t expected until next spring at the earliest.

Its arrival will coincide with upcoming centennial celebrations for the SS Sicamous and the Kettle Valley Railway.

“I think there’s just a lot of interest in heritage right now,” said Bourque, whose favourite local historic spots include the Granite Creek town site near Coalmont and the Red Bridge in Keremeos.

“I’m from the East Coast, and I think the covered bridges have a nostalgic appeal to me,” she said.

Penticton Museum curator Peter Ord said the Grist Mill in Keremeos and the Haynes Barn near Osoyoos are also must-haves in a regional heritage strategy, the development of which he applauded.

“We’ve seen the province really start devolving a lot of its responsibility for heritage sites, both through funding and through management assistance,” he said.

“So for the regional district to take this up is a really important step.

“It allows regional district politicians and representatives to understand the scope of what’s there, and when these sites do apply for funding from the province or the federal level it will give them a better sense of what support they need to provide to make that site more successful.”