Mary Mason of Owls Path Foundation presents plans for a Nuu-chah-nulth Cultural Centre to Port Alberni city council. The structure pictured in this image is the Copenhagen Opera House. (SCREENSHOT)

Mary Mason of Owls Path Foundation presents plans for a Nuu-chah-nulth Cultural Centre to Port Alberni city council. The structure pictured in this image is the Copenhagen Opera House. (SCREENSHOT)

Nuu-chah-nulth cultural centre pitched for Port Alberni

Three possible locations put forward for multi-million-dollar centre

Port Alberni city council has expressed support for a proposed Nuu-chah-nulth cultural centre that would be located within the city.

Owls Path Foundation and Tigers Eye Advisory Group have partnered on a plan for the construction of a Nuu-chah-nulth cultural and interpretive centre. Mary Mason of Owls Path Foundation presented this plan to Port Alberni city council on Monday, Feb. 22. The cultural centre would be a multi-level building structure with parking, retail and office spaces, a cultural museum and space for conventions.

Project coordinators have picked three potential locations. Their preferred location is the parking lot across from Jack’s Tires on Kingsway Avenue, because this is the site of Tseshaht First Nation’s historic “wolf” village, explained Mason.

Other potential locations include the dog park across from Clutesi Haven Marina and the green space across from the historic train station, also known as the Harbourview Lands. Both of these properties are city-owned, while the parking lot is private property. The group will be meeting with an architectural team soon to come up with more detailed plans.

Project manager Denise Young estimates that the project will cost between $20-25 million. Organizers are working on securing funding with support from key stakeholders (including all 14 Nuu-chah-nulth nations), grants, sponsorships and fundraisers.

“We really feel we have the concept, the revenue model, the ability to sell the facility,” said Young. “Revenue generation is very viable. Our key first step is securing the land.”

The First Nation Education Foundation (FNEF) has already expressed interest in using the cultural centre as a space for its language revitalization programs.

“For us, we very much are looking for purposeful space where we can do our work,” explained Scott Jeary of the FNEF. “[Port Alberni] is an ideal location, considering the entire Nuu-chah-nulth community kind of uses Port Alberni as a hub.”

The cultural centre would also be a good place to house the FNEF’s language revitalization pole, said Mason. The pole, which has been under construction at Port Alberni’s waterfront for the past two years, was supposed to be erected at the University of Victoria in 2019, but heavy interest from people in the Alberni Valley convinced the FNEF to change the pole’s final resting place.

Mayor and council praised the concept of the cultural centre during the Feb. 22 meeting and expressed interest in appointing a representative to the group’s advisory committee in order to stay involved.

“It is a beautiful concept,” said Mayor Sharie Minions. “It is something we would be incredibly proud to have in our community. I’m thrilled that someone is working on it.”

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Joel Marriott and his wife Mary Mason have operated Owls Path Tourism, a First Nations-focused tourism company based in Port Alberni, since 2016. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Joel Marriott and his wife Mary Mason have operated Owls Path Tourism, a First Nations-focused tourism company based in Port Alberni, since 2016. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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