From left, Mrs. S. Lafond, Jim Albo, Diana Fowler LeBlanc, Governor General Romeo LeBlanc, Jackie Drysdale, Jack Fisher, and Babs Bourchier during an official visit to the Rossland Museum on Aug. 19, 1997.

Rossland’s Jackie Drysdale lauded for decades of heritage preservation

Heritage BC recognizes Drysdale with lifetime achievement award

Jackie Drysdale took the news that she had won a lifetime achievement award from Heritage BC in stride.

“It was a total surprise, and a pleasure,” she told the Rossland News.

Drysdale, who just retired from the city-appointed Heritage Commission late last year, has been recognized for her decades of work promoting and protecting heritage in the community.

Drysdale has had a long-time interest and involvement in Rossland’s history and heritage. It started in earnest in 1980 as a member of city council. She eventually served three terms as councillor, and one as mayor.

The council of the time used the city’s significant history and heritage buildings as the focus for receiving large federal, provincial and Western Canadian Economic Development grants to promote revitalization of the downtown core and enhance tourist attractions.

Among the projects was the restoration of the Miners’ Hall and the addition of a tea room at the museum.

But Drysdale says it was her last stint on council, in the 2000s, where her most significant contributions occurred.

“Rossland had really fallen off anyone’s page at the provincial heritage branch. There was new legislation around the Conservation Act, and a new system for valuing heritage rather than just age alone,” she recalls. “I was able to get council’s support to create a commission under under the terms of the Municipal Act.”

Drysdale became the chair of the commission, and was there until her retirement. The big task they faced was creating a heritage registry that would place Rossland’s heritage places on provincial and federal heritage lists and allow building owners to pursue heritage grants. It’s among her proudest accomplishments.

“The register will always be a work in progress, but it allows all the related information acquired by the commission over the years to be accessible to the public,” she says.

Walking down the street in her historic community, she says she doesn’t have a particular favourite.

“Our streetscapes are beautiful. Not only do we have the authentic heritage buildings, but we have all the improvements done by the city in terms of the infrastructure,” she says. “And that is all tied in to the work done in the 1980s.”

Public awareness has also been part of the mandate of the Heritage Commission, and Drysdale worked to see heritage plaques placed on buildings, and created three interpretative sites. A four-year restoration project of Columbia Cemetery saw 68 monuments repaired and several brushed-in areas of plots cleared.

There have also been presentations, tours and revised brochures, walking tours and Heritage Canada events — displays, Heritage Week events and hosting the 2014 Heritage BC annual conference.

“The idea has always been in my mind that this community’s history is so significant, and our heritage is authentic — we have so much of it — then why have we not capitalized on this, both for community identity and because it’s a great story and a great place to visit?” she says.

The commission has also been responsible for five publications, including ones on heritage homes, local cemeteries, and stories of colourful people of the past.

“I am very proud of what the Rossland Heritage Commission has achieved as a voluntary group, acting on behalf of the community and as a commission of city council, over the past 10 years — in promoting the heritage (and at the same time, the history) of Rossland,” she says. “All has been done through an annual grant of approximately $5,000 from the city, funding from the east end cemetery function of the RDKB, grants from CBT, donations, book sales and volunteer effort.”

Rossland’s mayor says Drysdale’s award is well-deserved.

“She’s done such fantastic work since the ’80s, such an active volunteer, and founder of the Heritage Commission — she did wonderful things in her role there,” says Kathy Moore. “Her contributions are enormous, and it’s fitting that she be acknowledged.”

Drysdale notes that work protecting and promoting the city’s heritage has been a co-operative effort between many groups and individuals over many years.

“I am but the recipient of the lifetime achievement award, on behalf of the community and its volunteers,” she says modestly.

Drysdale will pick up her award at the annual meeting of Heritage BC in May.

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