Dozens of supporters turned out at city hall last week to look over what plans the Cariboo Heritage Park Society has in store for a seven-acre parcel of land at the Stampede Grounds.
The society held the open house for the public as part of the necessary next steps in the process to secure a long-term land lease from the city for the historic 153 Mile Store.
“I’m really impressed with the turnout. There’s lots of interest and everybody’s really positive,” said Roger Patenaude, one of two brothers who are donating the store and all of its priceless contents to the city.
“It’s a time capsule from 1900 to 1963. The store supplied logging, supplied mining, supplied ranchers, (traded with First Nations) so there was everything in that store. I don’t think there is anything you can’t say in that time period that didn’t go through that store,” Patenaude told the Tribune.
The Patenaudes announced their intention to donate the store to the City of Williams Lake more than two years ago. The parcel of land on the Stampede Grounds know as the Pinchbeck Hill has been identified by the society as the “ideal location” due to its proximity to downtown, highway appeal and fit with the Western culture of Stampede.
“This is definitely the best spot for it, we think,” added Anita Crosina, whose family started the store.
The initial gifting of the store has been easy part, though. Securing the land has been much more complex.
“We still have a big hurdle here … getting the OK to excavate,” Patenaude said.
“First Nations have shown their concern about a pit house that’s on (the property). For us to make room (for the store) the pit house has to be lowered. What we propose is to secure the pit house … and drop it the 16 feet the excavation is going to be and leave it right in the same spot only 16 feet lower and it will be one of the showcases in the whole village. We are hoping that Sugar Cane and their people agree with that, and that the archaeological branch accepts that.”
Representatives from the Williams Lake Indian Band were not on hand at the event.
If excavation of the land is approved, the society will move forward and start raising the estimated $1 million needed to relocate the building and all its content from its current location on a working ranch near 150 Mile House. Patenaude said he doesn’t think fundraising will be an issue.
“The hard thing is to sit here and wait, and wait and wait. I really just want to have a piece of ground to say, ‘OK this is where the store is going, this is what we’re doing and let’s get on with it.’”