A bridge to the past

Red Bridge becomes focal point, symbol for public heritage projects

Mike Youds / Kamloops Daily News
February 16, 2013 01:00 AM

Heritage Commission chairman Andrew Yarmie shows some of the engraved blocks already purchased in support of the heritage kiosks.

Saving heritage is a little like recycling the past, a concept the City's heritage commission has taken to heart as it rallies community support for a showpiece in the Red Bridge.

After years of recognizing private and public initiatives in heritage preservation - the Old Courthouse and the Inland Cigar Factory are two prominent examples - the commission is taking on higher-profile projects of its own.

In co-operation with the Kamloops Communities in Bloom Committee, the commission is making gradual improvements to enhance the wooden bridge, work that began last year as a Fort Kamloops bicentennial initiative.

The project gathers momentum this year through a "friends of the Red Bridge" donation program. Public benches, engraved bricks and recycled kiosks are the next phase. The commission is recycling timbers from the second bridge, demolished in 1936, for benches to be installed along Lorne Street.

How did they recover timbers toted off 75 years ago?

"People around town saved them," said Andrew Yarmie, chairman of the commission. "There are people around who have them in their backyards."

A timber bench with your name on it will set you back $750. If that's too rich, how about an engraved brick for $100?

Fifty folks have taken up the offer, enabling the commission to raise funds for its enhancement project. The bricks will be installed as pavers around two kiosks, one at the foot of the bridge on Lorne Street, the other down the street at the long overlooked Pioneer Cemetery.

Two other projects are in store. One is a cultural tour of the downtown, with plaques pointing out landmarks and people now long gone - the opera house, the Empire silent movie house and the Little Theatre (forerunner of Western Canada Theatre), actor Boris Karloff, poet Pauline Johnson and photographer Mary Spence.

"We might even do the undercurrent of Kamloops culture - Miss Salley's Brothel," Yarmie said.

A longer-term goal is to illuminate the Red Bridge with solar-powered LED lights, an undertaking that will cost between $150,000 and $180,000.

"We're looking for a big sponsor to help with that. It's mostly to enhance the look of the bridge for tourists and locals."

While heritage values add to the quality of life and attract tourism, they are not easily achieved. Old makes way for new. While they're nice to look at, heritage structures can be costly to restore and maintain. Economics often hold sway.

"It's a difficult task because, particularly in Kamloops, we don't have strong bylaws protecting heritage."

Indeed, despite efforts over the past two decades, many heritage buildings have been torn down to make way for new development. The City has led the way with preservation projects such as the North Shore's Wilson House, he noted.

"They have demonstrated that heritage is important. We need to continue that further."

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