Heritage Commission examines relationship with city

The Alberni Valley Heritage Commission is wondering what its relationship will be with the city of Port Alberni going forward.

The Commission was established with City Bylaw #4687 and allows a commission of 16 members from various interests groups in the community to advise city council on matters related to heritage assets and broader heritage issues in the region. These assets include the Alberni Valley Museum and the McLean Mill National Historic Site.

The city of Port Alberni agreed last year to look for an alternate governance model for the Alberni Valley Museum, and is currently looking at forming a tripartite agreement with the Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations.

The city also changed the management of the McLean Mill last year, as the historic site is now being run by the McLean Mill Society board of directors.

With these substantial changes to the city’s heritage assets, members of the Heritage Commission are wondering what their role will be going forward.

“The changes that council has made to the McLean Mill management and the proposed changes to the Alberni Valley Museum have not been discussed with the Commission,” said commissioner Pam Craig during an Oct. 23 meeting of city council. “This, of course, leaves the Commission questioning what role the city sees in the future of the Commission.”

Craig pointed out that the Commission plays a significant role in the Alberni Valley, in preserving and protecting the real and accurate history of the community.

“Among other things, our history fosters a sense of identity and civic pride, both important components of the fabric that holds our community together,” she said.

She also mentioned the economic value of heritage tourism, which brings people to the Valley to learn about its history.

“The Commission believes heritage tourism is a real thing,” said Craig. “It is an entity. Our members experience it throughout the year as visitors ask questions about our historical sites and tourists are very curious about our whole area and who we are.”

The Commission sent out a questionnaire to council, and on Oct. 23 extended an invitation for a meeting with all commissioners and all councillors to see what council would like from the Heritage Commission going forward.

Mayor Mike Ruttan welcomed the invitation from the Commission. “We did begin a process, and we initiated a process which is only slowly unfolding now, even though it was started virtually two years ago,” he said. “It’s taking some time to work through.”

Council also agreed to bring forward Bylaw #4687 for review and to discuss it with the Heritage Commission.

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