The battle to save the observatory building is not over for Brian Antonson.
The president of the Mission Heritage Association (MHA) is hopeful that council will eventually reconsider its decision to tear down the structure, even if it does not become an observatory.
“I’m so sick and tired of all these nudge, nudge, wink, wink bits that say the building is deficient. It’s been 18 months that we’ve been arguing about this,” said Antonson, who suggests an independent inspector, not chosen by the MHA or the district, should examine the building and remove any doubt regarding the quality of its construction.
He feels that must be done before any thought is given to demolish it.
He called the structure a wonderful community asset, adding there is “no reason to take it apart at this point in time.”
Antonson believes the district doesn’t want people to come out and use the outside deck for a “star party.”
“They don’t want that to happen. They don’t want anything like that to happen because it might prove that there is an interest in astronomy.”
Antonson believes the building should remain and a ramp built to allow access to the deck. The building below can remain empty for now. That way wedding parties or those just looking for a beautiful view can enjoy it.
“But astronomers, who have every right to be in that park, like everybody else, would also have a very solid, well built, firm surface from which to set up their telescopes.
“Will it be an observatory down the road? Who knows what winds might change with this particular group or a future government?” asked Antonson.
Social media has been buzzing with debate since the controversy began 18 months ago. According to Antonson, about 95 per cent of the social media comments are opposed to taking down the building. But he doesn’t think Mayor Randy Hawes is taking notice.
“Randy trivializes that. He says it’s just the vocal minority. Well, where is the non-vocal majority?”
Antonson thinks Hawes is under tremendous pressure, from both the public and staff.
“Doesn’t somebody at city government say, ‘There are a lot of people objecting to this. Maybe we should reconsider. Do we really need to tear down the building?’ That’s what I would hope they would do.”
Antonson is also hoping to clear up what he considers misinformation regarding the building and the running of Fraser River Heritage Park. One allegation is that the MHA abandoned three other, partially completed building projects in order to work on Antonson’s dream project. He says this is simply not true.
“It (the observatory) wasn’t my dream. It was my idea so I carried it through but nothing suffered. All the other stuff continued and the observatory grew. It was all happening at the same time.”
He said no money from the other three building projects went to the observatory
“Nothing was diverted.”
Antonson said what did happen was the MHA received $250,000 to build a maintenance building and washroom (the Clayburn Building) in the northeast corner of park. At the same time, there was pressure to move the caretaker’s suite.
The MHA decided to move the caretaker’s suite over to the existing washrooms building. They also began the expansion of the Blackberry Kitchen.
All of this was done under the previous council.
But as the projects commenced, Antonson said they started hearing some complaints about why the buildings were not finished.
He said there was a delay as they waited for “the timber to come from the tree farm.”
Once the wood was made available, the siding began to go up.
“It had nothing to do with the observatory.”