Courtenay heritage group ‘encouraged on many fronts’

"Celebrate the past. Look toward the future."
That's how Lawrence Burns, chairman of the City of Courtenay Heritage Advisory Commission (COCHAC), started his annual report to Courtenay council Monday.

“Celebrate the past. Look toward the future.”That’s how Lawrence Burns, chairman of the City of Courtenay Heritage Advisory Commission (COCHAC), started his annual report to Courtenay council Monday.The COCHAC advises council on heritage conservation matters, as well as undertakes and provides support for such activities as benefit and provide for the advancement of heritage conservation in the city, explained Burns.”Heritage conservation ensures that the legacy of the past will be preserved for the future,” he said. “We are encouraged on many fronts, as we see significant increase in the interest in heritage by our local politicians and administrations, residents, businesses and tourists, but the importance of doing more is an ongoing challenge. It requires a determined commitment and political will to encourage our people to share in protecting, conserving and honouring our irreplaceable heritage.”The COCHAC, which began in May 1984, has 29 members, including a city staff person.During his report, Burns spoke about the four levels of heritage activities in which the COCHAC is involved.There is the Heritage Inventory, which is an inventory of buildings constructed prior to 1939. The inventory includes more than 200 residences and more than 50 businesses.The COCHAC is continuously working on compiling historic information, construction dates, builders, owners and other information on these places, explained Burns.The COCHAC is also involved in installing commemorative heritage plaques.The COCHAC identifies the significance of the building or site and obtains the owner’s permission for installation. Then, through press release and public ceremony, the public awareness of its significance is made, explained Burns.Twenty-three plaques have been installed to date, the latest being the Old Creamery Steam Whistle, placed on its original site, now home to the Courtenay library.The COCHAC is also involved in the City of Courtenay Heritage Register.The register is an official listing of properties, identified by the community as having heritage values or character, complete with a Statement of Significance.These will be part of the Canadian Register of Historic Places, following submission to the Province of B.C., explained Burns.The first phase of this register began in June 2008 and was approved by council in August 2009. It includes 20 locations, and the COCHAC is in the process of adding one more site, the Sandwick Veterans Memorial Cairn, Burns told council.The fourth level is heritage designation bylaws.To further protect “real property in whole or in part” from alteration or demolition, without prior approval of plans, a designated building is identified by a bylaw, explained Burns.Three such bylaws have been passed in years past — including the E&N Railway Station — and one more is in the works, he noted.”Heritage BC has been working on a ‘Call to Renew BC Heritage Programs,’ and it has been emphasized that ‘a revitalized heritage program will be a sound investment, a boon to B.C.’s diverse and growing tourism industry and a commitment to a sustainable future. It will also fulfill the pact with the people of B.C. to protect, conserve and honour our irreplaceable heritage,'” said Burns.”We believe heritage is good business, whoever you are. It is inspiring and challenging, and we are working together for this, so let’s celebrate the past and look toward the future.”Councillors expressed gratitude toward the COCHAC for its work.”I think it’s an honour to the city that so many people who have a heart for the community maintain this commitment by serving on this commission, which is a real partnership between citizens and city staff,” said Coun. Doug Hillian.Coun. Jon Ambler thanked COCHAC for its efforts.”I’ve always believed if you live in a community and don’t know its history, it’s like being a leaf and not knowing that there was a tree,” he said. “When our heritage, especially our physical heritage, is lost, it’s lost forever. It’s absolutely irreplaceable, and the work of this committee, the hard work you do and the passion you put into it, enables citizens, both those newly arrived to the Comox Valley and those who have lived here all their lives, to be part of that history.”

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