A Prince George resident is collecting funds to try and keep a world-class heritage site east of Quesnel full of life.
Since she was a young child, Barkerville Historic Town & Park has always been a favorite of Cherrisse Reink, who worries what the future may hold for the cherished attraction.
Barkerville Heritage Trust director of public programming and media, James Douglas, confirmed their funding deficit is $670,000 and said a tremendous amount of money is required to upkeep the more than 140 buildings in Barkerville where historical interpreters are also employed.
Douglas said over the last few years, wildfires and poor air quality have caused fewer people to visit Barkerville. The attraction usually hosts 65,000 people per year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not helped. Although a 400 onsite limit was recently lifted, Douglas suspects they will only be seeing between 40,000 to 45,000 visitors in 2021.
He said provincial funding has been limited, noting Barkerville was recently told they did not meet the criteria to receive funding through the B.C.’s Government’s latest program for major anchor attractions.
While the trust operates the town and park, it is owned by the provincial and federal governments.
“At this time, I would say you don’t need to worry about us closing, but I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of the situation,” Douglas said.
“I think if we ultimately don’t come up with a longer-term solution and a long-term agreement with the province, we might see a scaling back, and we will see that this year, for example.”
Winter activities such as the Old-Fashioned Victorian Christmas will likely be downsized. Douglas said the trust doubts they will be fiscally responsible still putting on such events.
Reink said she loves seeing and hearing history come alive at Barkerville, named after William ‘Billy’ Barker who struck gold more than 150 years ago.
She hopes her young daughter and son will be able to enjoy Barkerville as she had at their age when her family visits in September.
Reink is hoping to deliver $10,000 to the park during that visit and is accepting bottle donations at the Nechako Bottle Depot in Prince George and B&G Bottle Depot in Quesnel.
The Barkerville Heritage Trust is endorsing her efforts, Douglas said, calling it heartwarming to see a community member step up.
“We’re just so grateful that average citizens here in British Columbia recognize the historical and cultural importance of a place like Barkerville and want to make sure that we continue to thrive and provide the kind of great education and entertainment that we have been for more than 50 years now.”