It will be another busy year on the building front at Historic Hat Creek Ranch (HHCR). After completing $1.5 million in water and fire safety upgrades last year, the ranch has secured funding to allow it to go ahead with the construction of a new gift shop; and on April 30 it received a cheque for $250,000 from the Ministry of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development to proceed with the construction of a new firehouse and service building.
Funding for the new gift shop has recently been secured from the Heritage Branch of the Ministry of Forest, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, the Friends of HHCR, and Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT). The NDIT funding was the last piece of the puzzle to fall into place, and Don Pearse, manager of HHCR, says that if all goes well construction will start no later than October 1 this year.
Robert Sharkey, vice-chair of the Friends of HHCR, says that they hope to have the new gift shop open by December, in time for Christmas. “It’s about increasing employment and revenues,” he says, which fits in with NDIT’s economic development mandate. “And it was a good business case; we’re not a start-up, and will be increasing economic opportunities.” He notes that HHCR received a lot of support from the Thompson-Nicola Regional District and local councils to enable them to receive the NDIT funding.
The gift shop, which currently occupies 670 square feet on the second floor of the entrance building, will move to a ground-level space in a new building that will be joined to the main one via a boardwalk. This will not only provide the shop with more space—around 1,000 square feet—but will mean that it is easily accessible for those in wheelchairs or with mobility issues, who have difficulty accessing its current location. The new building will also contain more washrooms, as well as storage space.
Sharkey says they hope to use the current gift shop area for meeting and boardroom space. “There’s a potential for corporate business there, with the accommodations and food service we can provide.”
On April 30, Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart was on hand at a gathering at the ranch to present Friends of HHCR chair Monty Downs with a cheque for $250,000. “Historic Hat Creek Ranch has come a long, long way,” she noted, remembering a time when the second floor of the roadhouse was off-limits because it was unsound. “It’s a tribute to the volunteers. Heritage facilities have seen a lot of changes in the way they’re funded, and a group of rural MLAs have made sure we get our share of funding.
“In recognition of the work done by volunteers and the importance of this facility, I’m presenting a cheque for $250,000 to build a new firehouse, to show the facility is safe and that it’s valued.”
Downs notes that the grant is not program money that would have come normally to the ranch. “Jackie Tegart single-handedly did this.” He says that the firehouse project was on their wish list, and was one of three priorities HHCR asked Tegart for assistance with.
“This means that we can move our operations to the front of the property, which is a huge component. It means that we won’t need to have motor traffic through the site. And there will be accommodation for staff upstairs.”
Downs noted the importance of increasing links with the surrounding communities and making the ranch a regional destination. “If we want people to come to our area for a week, none of us can do this alone. We need to work together, and market opportunities together.”