A photo of the First Aid Shack at McLean Mill that was taken on December 6, 2017. The shack was located near the rail line of the site. In the background, you can see the Sand Shed and Loci Shed. PHOTO COURTESY JAMIE MORTON

Demolished McLean Mill National Historic Site building ends up in dumpster

Demolition could threaten heritage status, federal funding, says AV Museum’s Jamie Morton

An historic building at the McLean Mill National Historic Park has been demolished, and members of the Alberni Valley Heritage Commission are worried this will threaten the mill’s historic status—and funding.

The Heritage Commission learned during a meeting on Friday, June 6 that the historic First Aid Shack at McLean Mill had come down earlier last month, and the remnants discarded in a dumpster.

The shack was located within a Parks Canada declared historic zone, so commission members are concerned about the consequences this might have on the historical status of the mill—which could lead to the loss of federal funding.

“I feel it’s a huge loss to our historical artifact collection,” added commission member Pam Craig.

The situation is complicated, said Alberni Valley Museum manager Jamie Morton.

“The issue is Parks Canada said it was to be maintained in its preserved condition,” he said. The loss of this one building, he added, could have an impact on the “commemorative integrity” of the site.

In the 1990s, Parks Canada introduced the concept of commemorative integrity to ensure that third-party operators of historic sites wouldn’t impair the ability of the site to tell its story. McLean Mill was designated an historic site, said Morton, because of the mix of buildings that served different functions.

“They told all the stories of the forest industry in one compact site,” he explained.

The threat is whether or not Parks Canada catches wind of the incident and decides that it breaks the terms of the original agreement.

“I honestly don’t know how concerned they’ll be about this happening 20 years into the agreement,” said Morton. “But there is that kind of threat. It’s something that shouldn’t happen.”

According to McLean Mill Society president Bill Collette, the shack had fallen down and had been disassembled for safety reasons.

“The building was in some trouble,” he said. “It was a small building and it was visibly not in good shape. Some of the building remains were removed from the property,” he admitted. “We didn’t handle that as well as we should have.”

The First Aid Shack was a small building near the rail line, located on log skids so that it could move around as required.

“People are walking through there all the time,” said Collette. “We have to be cognizant of safety. Ideally, [the remains] would have been secured,” he added. “We accept our level of responsibility for not handling it properly.”

The McLean Mill Society does its best to adhere to preservation guidelines, said Collette.

“But we’re operating a business surrounding the historic site, so we’ve got some juggling to do,” he added. “We’re trying to ease the burden on taxpayers, without destroying the heritage of the site.”

Collette said he does not believe that other buildings on the property are in a similar state of near-collapse.

“[The shack] certainly appeared to be unstable,” said Collette. “Other buildings do not appear to be in that sort of condition.”

The problem is that any work done on the site has to be approached carefully to ensure that commemorative integrity is maintained, which limits repairs and investments. “Everything we do requires quite a bit of investigation,” said Collette.

This is not the first time a building has collapsed at the site. Years ago, the R.B. McLean House fell down, but the process was well-documented, pieces were collected and the building was reconstructed. In the case of the First Aid Shack, pieces were removed.

“A building falling down isn’t the big problem,” said Morton. “You try to protect and preserve what is there. This one ended up in the dumpster.”

The city, said Morton, is now in a “reactionary” situation, but a monitoring process of some kind could have prevented the loss.

“If it had been made evident, more appropriate action could have been taken,” he said. “That’s what the commemorative integrity piece is for. The people operating the site are not professionally trained to manage historic sites. [They] have to be cognizant, and they have to be in touch.”

Both Collette and Morton confirmed that there is a conservation engineer in the process of writing a report on the status of the site. Something like this, said Morton, could provide a baseline document for preservation.

“All we can do is try and do better next time,” said Morton.


Just Posted

UPDATE: Construction on Hwy. 4 halted after tree crashes into traffic

Trees are being cleared along the highway between Port Alberni and the Tofino-Ucluelet junction.

115 new wildfires burning across B.C. due to 19,000 lightning strikes

More fires expected to start today, says BC Wildfire Service officials

Find your groove with hand drums in Port Alberni

Nanaimo-based trio will be holding drumming workshop and concert

Alberni Senior Men’s Floor Hockey League reunites

Port Alberni has always been a hockey town, even when there was no ice

Heat wave hits Port Alberni

Open fires prohibited in Coastal Fire Region

Port Alberni celebrates National Aboriginal Day

Events took place on Thursday, June 21

Rescued Oregon family simply unprepared for adventure, RCMP say

Agencies now helping the group of four get to their destination in Alaska

Large B.C. tree dies after possible poisoning

Police and District investigate after large chestnut tree’s rapid decline

Canucks release 2018-19 season schedule

Vancouver to face Calgary Flames on Wednesday, Oct. 3, for home opener

VIDEO: Luxury Home and Design Show opens with Italian flare

Event set to run Friday to Sunday at BC Place in Vancouver

Small new charge on BC Hydro bills goes toward new crisis fund

The new fund aims to help customers who find themselves in financial emergencies

UPDATED: Crown appeals B.C. polygamous leader’s acquittal in child bride case

James Oler had been charged with taking his underage daughter to the U.S. to marry her off

Fake cops ‘arrest’ woman, steal $6,000 in latest CRA scam

Vancouver police urge people not take calls from anyone saying they’re from the Canada Revenue Agency

Study shows increase in mountain bike tourism in B.C.

Numbers are up, way up, for bike-related visits to the province

Most Read