Heritage BC’s fate hangs in the balance

Without grants from Heritage BC

Without grants from Heritage BC

When the money finally runs out, there won’t be much left to do when Heritage BC finally closes its doors for good.

“We’ll just stop answering the phone,” said Rick Goodacre, executive director of the non-profit society based at his Esquimalt home.

If the province won’t save it by the end of the year, gone will be a 30-year-old organization that has supported municipal heritage and conservation initiatives throughout the province. It helps establish heritage registry programs and, through the Heritage Legacy Fund, provides grants for restoration projects – the only organization of its kind in the province to do so.

Heritage BC has had a hand in shaping Dodd House in Saanich, the Oak Bay United Church and Victoria’s city hall clock tower, said Goodacre.

After years of cutbacks, the society is essentially the last line of heritage defence, said Victoria Coun. Pamela Madoff with the city’s heritage advisory committee.

“It tries to pick up the pieces,” she noted. 

The society has managed to scratch out an existence, despite having to close down in 2009 due to cutbacks, by tapping into grant money for community projects. It will take $148,000 this year to operate Heritage BC.

Grants have also been scaled back. About $150,000 will go out this year, though $400,000 could be given to the long list of initiatives that need attention, Goodacre explained.

“Without this fund, this is at risk of being lost forever,” said Goodacre. “Without this fund, these places fall apart.”

That doesn’t sit well with Esquimalt Coun. Bruce McIldoon, a member of the township’s heritage advisory committee.

“It means a risk of heritage landmarks falling into disrepair or being lost in the shuffle and forgotten about and disappearing,” McIldoon said.

As Heritage BC prepares to mark its 30th anniversary next month, municipal councils around the province are being encouraged to help. The hope is they will request that the issue be addressed at the fall meeting of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.

“It’s not about Heritage BC, it’s about all these communities.” Goodacre said. “They’re going to be the ones to suffer.”

emccracken@vicnews.com