Little Prairie Heritage Museum takes a step forward

Mike Carter, Chetwynd Echo


CHETWYND – The ongoing plans to rejuvenate and update the Little Prairie Heritage Museum took a step forward earlier this month.

Herold Engineering Ltd., a company based in Nanaimo, was hired by the Little Prairie Heritage Society to prepare a report on the structural integrity of the building.

The firm has experience in restoration of older style building similar to the museum, having worked on buildings in both Whitehorse and Dawson City.

The engineering report will strengthen the group’s bid to secure additional funding from the Peace River Regional District (PRRD) to complete the much-needed renovations to the aging facility.

In May, the PRRD announced that the Heritage Society would be receiving $8,750 in Grants-in-Aid for the general operation and up-keep of the museum.

The group has applied for an additional $100,000 to help fund the repairs and renovations needed. Although this funding has not yet been approved, those close to the project say PRRD Electoral Area “E” director Jerrilyn Schembri is behind the Heritage Society’s goals.

“Jerrilyn is very supportive of it but we just have to go through the process, and understandably, they don’t want to spend $100,000 if it’s going to implode. It’s just the process is taking longer than anybody even knew,” Little Prairie Heritage Society board member Julie Shaw stated.

The museum has been closed for the duration of the 2013 season for safety reasons. The building, originally a general store in the downtown area during Chetwynd’s humble beginnings has seen better days.

In the basement, a rusting jack-post stands off to the side, propping up the main support joist for the building’s beveled floor. The building itself is sagging.

Outside, the deck that was built with non-pressure treated lumber leans to one side. Upstairs a live-catch rattrap sits waiting for the furry critter that has been gnawing away at the walls.

Local contractors have provided quotes for the work that needs to be done and once funding is secured, the improvements will begin immediately.

“Time is of the essence,” Shaw said, being quick to note that at this time there is no chance that the museum will remain closed for another year.

Shaw added that the vision she and the rest of the group have include a vision of a new and improved museum, capable of hosting weddings and other events.

“We want people to come visit, whether they come to visit the museum itself or they come to visit the grounds. We would love to have families have picnics out there. Come enjoy the museum and the grounds.”

The museum will be adding an additional building to the site in the near future. The Heritage Society has purchased a section of the old Lighthouse church, located on the South Access road.