Jackie Drysdale, chair of the Rossland Heritage Commision (left), with Mayor Kathy Moore, Joanne Drystek of the Rossland Heritage Commission and Carol Albo, head of the Sacred Heart Parish Cemetery Committee, at a ceremony at a historic cemetery. Photo by: Chelsea Novak

Wanted: a co-ordinated approach to Rossland’s heritage

City needs to show more leadership to protect historic resources, says ex-mayor

The head of Rossland’s Heritage Commission says the protection of the community’s historical resources is facing a crossroads.

Just two weeks after the Rossland Miners’ Hall received a national historic designation, Jackie Drysdale says more people have to get involved in protecting the community’s historic resources.

“We have gone beyond the point, in my mind, where a volunteer heritage commission can take on this leadership role in the community,” says Drysdale, a former mayor.

Drysdale has been involved with the protection of heritage buildings in Rossland for decades. She says it’s been rewarding to see various buildings in the community recognized for their significance. She believes protecting history has been an economic benefit to the city.

Right now 29 buildings and 13 sites are on the community’s heritage registry.

Drysdale notes the protection of the city’s history has gone from success to success, especially in the last year. A citizens’ survey was conducted over the winter, to develop a management plan for heritage protection.

That report should be made public soon. Buildings like the Red Roof Church, Bodega Hotel and the Seniors’ Centre have received hundreds of thousands of dollars for restoration and repair work. And most recently, the Commission received over $14,000 to complete statements of significance for all its heritage stock — something that may help attract more funding in the future.

But in the midst of the success, Drysdale says there are worrying signs. She says the community’s heritage efforts are too fractured.

“Right now the library, museum, the Miners’ Hall, and the the arts council are working in silos, going after grants,” she says. “Surely we should be able to find some efficiencies of use, better communication links, and work together where appropriate.”

Drysdale hopes the management plan in the works right now will recommend a more co-ordinated approach.

“The heritage commission has done so much, but it’s been done in the absence of Tourism Rossland, the museum, etc.” she says. “We’ve done a lot, but to move forward we need more community involvement.”

Drysdale says it’s increasingly important, especially as the definition of heritage resources expands beyond brick-and-mortar concepts.

“Trends are changing. There’s a suggestion now we should be doing other things — looking at pre-gold rush history, aboriginal history, environmentally significant sites,” she says. That has her concerned that the definition of heritage will become so wide that efforts to protect it will become unfocussed.

It also raises questions, she says, as to whether it can be done, who will do it, and what resources will be needed.

“I don’t know, I have no idea how that will take place and whether you can get a broad participation of affected people and groups to work together.”

The heritage commission can’t do it alone — she notes even it needs more volunteers, she says.

She sees a role for groups like Tourism Rossland, which has focused more on products like skiing and mountain biking activities, rather than what’s actually in Rossland. She says the result can sometime be curious.

“Coming up the hill, what are the tourism signs you see? ‘Mountains and Vineyards,’” she says. “Really?”

But Drysdale says the real leadership has to come from council. The subject has been taken up many times by municipal politicians, who have attempted to develop regulations to protect the downtown’s historic feel. But she says if the community’s going to move forward, council has to step up and show leadership for protecting the community’s history.

Guidelines have been proposed, and regulations, and then revised guidelines, she notes. But it’s not resulted in a co-ordinated strategy to protect and promote the community’s most recognizable asset, she says.

“We’ve never, ever had a council that came out strongly in support of keeping our heritage theme in the downtown,” she says.

She says how council reacts to the heritage management plan will determine the future for Rossland’s scenic downtown.

“Collaboration in the community, that’s got to be the next step,” she says. “I’m proud of what we have accomplished — in terms of signage, publications, our website, public awareness, and the heritage registry. We’re now allowed to get grants, as we’re independent from council now.

“But a leadership role, hopefully from council working with a steering committee made up of various elements of the community — that’s where we need to go.”

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Looking east down Columbia Avenue from the rock bluff in 1958. More has to be done to protect the historic downtown, says Jackie Drysdale. Photo from the Rossland Museum and Discovery Centre

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