The partially-completed observatory building in Mission’s Fraser River Heritage Park could be taken down as early as this week.
Habitat For Humanity is currently seeking volunteers to help re-purpose as much of the construction materials as possible.
According to their website (habitatufv.ca) “Habitat for Humanity Upper Fraser Valley will be deconstructing and salvaging the observatory in Heritage Park in Mission.
“While the loss of the observatory is an unfortunate loss for the community, we at Habitat for Humanity will be using as much building material from the building as possible to support our efforts to build affordable homes for families in need in the District of Mission. We are very thankful to the District of Mission for partnering with us to build homes and to salvage the observatory. We are asking members of the community to help us salvage this building.”
The website also states it needs the volunteers from July 10-13 for the deconstruction project.
However, on Sunday morning, no volunteer crew was at the site.
The observatory structure has been the subject of a public controversy.
The observatory debate began in December 2014 after the district gave notice to the Mission Heritage Association (MHA) that it would not be renewing its agreement to maintain the facilities at the Fraser River Heritage Park.
Last year, council determined that the observatory project would not move forward and the site would be re-purposed. The district also took over the renovation of three other buildings in the park, including the Blackberry Kitchen.
MHA members have been vocal in their opposition of the move.
Brian Antonson, president of the MHA said he was shocked when he heard that Habitat For Humanity was now involved.
“Very well played on the part of council. I’ve got to say they did a masterful job about this. It’s very politically well-played,” said Antonson.
He said people at Habitat For Humanity “are wonderful” and nobody can question that they do great work.
“But pitting one volunteer organization against another, what kind of crafty work is that on the part of council? It’s just not appropriate,” said Antonson.
He’s hoping to get the word out about the deconstruction project and maybe Habitat For Humanity will see it as a “political hot potato” and decide not to get involved.
Mission Mayor Randy Hawes said Habitat For Humanity has a long history of doing good work and council was pleased they wanted to start a project in Mission that could help a lot of families.
He said with the decision already made by council to take down the observatory building, giving the material to Habitat is a logical idea.
“It’s a re-purposing of the materials for something that we believe actually helps people and that’s low-cost housing,” said Hawes.
“If that structure is coming down and its going to be re-purposed, I can’t think of a better way to re-purpose it.”
Hawes said any notion that council is pitting one volunteer group against another is ridiculous and saying so sounds like an act of desperation from the MHA.
“The heritage association, at this point, has nothing to do with the park. Why they keep bringing this back is beyond me. It’s not a healthy thing. The decision was made. It was made by council legitimately even though a couple of people wanted to wait until we had a parks master plan, they certainly did not oppose taking down the building,” Hawes said.
He also said he doesn’t understand why people keep insisting the fate of the observatory was his decision alone.
“The fact is the decision was made by council, not me, not an individual council member, but unanimously by council.”
Hawes feels it would be nice if the community got behind Habitat For Humanity and its attempt to provide low-cost housing for those who need it.
A representative from Habitat For Humanity could not be reached for comment.