The Friends of Historic Hat Creek Ranch Society held their AGM on December 14, and chair Robert Sharkey said that they had a “very successful” year with operations, and new building going on. Attendance at Hat Creek this season topped 20,000 for the first time, with 21,000 people touring the site.
Sharkey reported that work on the new gift ship is on schedule, and that the building will be ready to go by the time the site opens in May 2017. When they have finished construction work on the gift shop, the contractors will start work on the construction of a new fire hall/service building across the road from the new gift shop; that will hopefully be complete by summer 2017..
Restoring a relationship with the Bonaparte Band was another major item in 2016, and Sharkey says they are making progress. “It’s very positive for us, and gives us more credibility with the Heritage Branch. A lot of work is about the future of the site.”
A successful meeting with the Heritage Branch was the first step toward securing funding for the last two years of the current five-year Heritage Site Management Agreement. “We need to get a commitment to keep rolling,” says Sharkey, who added that the society hopes to have the first draft of an eight-year agreement ready soon.
Going forward, he says that the most obvious new project would be extending the current campground to provide more sites, as well as shower houses, water, and sewer. He estimates that the project would cost approximately $400,000, and says they are talking to the Heritage Branch about this. “We seem to have a much better, positive relationship with them.”
General manager Don Pearse says that they had a “really good, successful year, with lots of grants received.” He noted the “great growth in programming” under program manager Chris Linton. “People are staying longer and engaging with staff.”
The board voted to keep membership and admission fees at the 2016 level, the second year in a row that the rates have stayed the same. Pearse noted that unlike some other historic sites such as Barkerville, the admission fee at Historic Hat Creek covers everything at the site, such as the blacksmith shop and the stagecoach rides.
Chris Linton said she made 111 class visits in 2016, bringing history to 2,900 students throughout the region. “Local schools are coming back,” she says, “and the programming is very strong and growing, with incredible daily events.” She cited the “Victorian wedding”, re-enacted throughout the summer, as particularly popular, and starting to be copied by other sites.
She added that programming at the First Nations site is also increasing, and changing. “We’re moving towards something that’s experience-based, rather than lectures.” She mentioned the popularity of people sitting around a fire, making bannock and exchanging stories.
“We’re looking to build new shows, and looking at building a family tour route, as well as expanding other areas for families. We have a classroom without walls here, and children learn without teaching.”