Brian Antonson

Brian Antonson

Association members felt like they were ‘being fired’

District will allow parks maintenance deal with Mission Heritage Association to run out at end of the year.

Brian Antonson doesn’t understand why fundraising efforts for the new observatory at Fraser River Heritage Park have to be stopped.

The president of the Mission Heritage Association (MHA) isn’t sure if the district has the authority to halt volunteer efforts to finish construction of the facility.

The decree came as part of a letter informing the association that the District of Mission would not be renewing its maintenance agreement for Fraser River Heritage Park.

The association has been maintaining the park for the past 35 years.

While the letter says the agreement will be allowed to lapse, Antonson said members of the MHA feel like “we’re being fired.”

He explained that the district informed the MHA at the end of 2014 that it planned to end its agreement, but he saw it as the new council merely doing its due diligence. Antonson said he knew there had been some public complaints regarding the unfinished buildings – including the observatory – located in the park. However, he thought the agreement would likely be reworked.

Under the present contract, the AHA receives $155,000 from the district to maintain the park. The group also has a budget of $150,000 that it raised through various events, for an approximate annual budget of $305,000.

Antonson said it will cost much more for the district to pay staff to do the work his organization has been doing.

As for the observatory and other building projects, he doesn’t know what the council has planned.

Mission Mayor Randy Hawes told the Record that most of the buildings onsite are amenities needed in the park, but the observatory project is more like a commercial venture and the  operational costs would be funded by admission charges for school groups.

“We want to make sure a sound business plan is in place,” before going forward said Hawes.

Antonson said he had created a business plan for the observatory and sent it to the district.

But Hawes indicated he had no idea how much it would cost to operate the facility. That is one of many things that needs to be investigated by staff.

Hawes did estimate that it would cost about $300,000 to finish the observatory and make it operational.

“We have to take charge,” said Hawes. “It’s past time to have a full assessment on those buildings.”

He said he wants the public to be involved in any future discussions.

The move to end the contract with the MHA is part of a bigger parks plan, explained Hawes

“We have looked not only at Heritage Park, but all the parks in the district. We believe it’s time for a much broader governance structure that will cover all of our parks.”

Fraser River Heritage Park is the only park in the district that has a separate management contract. Hawes said it is time to design a new structure, whether it be an advisory committee, park board, friends of the park or some other form of governance.

Whichever new governance is eventually implemented, Hawes said one priority will remain the same.

“We intend to ensure that the park remains the jewel that we all think it should be and think it is.”

 

PARK HISTORY

Fraser River Heritage Park is a sprawling park overlooking Matsqui Prairie and the Fraser Valley. It is situated on the former site of St. Mary’s Mission and Residential School, founded by Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1861, and retains several heritage sites including the O.M.I. Cemetery and the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.

After the St. Mary’s school became derelict in the 1960s, the land became the property of the B.C. government and was slated for high-density housing.

The Mission Heritage Association was formed in 1979, and the founding president and honorary chairperson Norma Kenney stepped in to lobby the government for the site. The park was created from 44 acres of the original land in 1986, and the Mission Heritage Association continued to develop and promote the facilities.

Since 1986, the Norma Kenney House, Flag Plaza, Bell Tower, and Blackberry Kitchen restaurant have been built on the premises. Annual events include the Mission Folk Festival, Envision Twilight Concerts in the summer, and Old Car Sunday, and there are more throughout the year. Portions of the park are available to reserve for private functions.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack Law Courts. (Black Press file)
Man sentenced to 20 months for sexual interference in Mission

Will Laws Clark was 22 and victim was 13 at time offences began

A worker is seen throwing a chicken in an undercover video in 2017 filmed by California-based animal rights activists Mercy For Animals.
Fraser Valley chicken abuse trial delayed until February

Originally scheduled for a jury trial, Sofina and Chilliwack company now face judge alone

Sheriff Avory Chapman was last seen Jan. 20 on Wellington Avenue in Chilliwack. (RCMP)
RCMP look for missing man last seen in downtown Chilliwack

21-year-old Sheriff Avory Chapman has been missing since Jan. 20

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
COVID-19 outbreak declared over at Menno Home in Abbotsford

Long-term care home had 67 cases and 13 deaths since mid-November

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane towed across Chilliwack over weekend

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Rose Sawka, 91, waves to her son through the window of a care home in Prince Rupert in October. Residents of the care home received their first vaccine dose Jan. 20. (K-J Millar/The Northern View)
B.C. care home visitor access to expand by March, Dix says

Staff, residents, essential visitors top priorities for vaccine

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) is looking into the death of man discovered Jan. 11 in east Maple Ridge. (Black Press files)
B.C.’s police watchdog investigating man’s death in Maple Ridge

Man was found dead Jan. 11 after recent contact with police

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

Kyrell Sopotyk was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in 2016 and played two seasons with the Western Hockey League club. (Photograph By ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)
Kamloops Blazer paralyzed in snowboarding accident sparks fundraiser for family

As of Jan. 24, more than $68,000 had been raised to help Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk

Most Read