The City of Parksville will allow a local piece of history to be relocated rather than demolished, as originally planned.
Council voted unanimously to transfer ownership of a 101-year-old water tower to the E&N division of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association (ENCRHA). The city will also provide $35,000, originally budgeted to demolish the building, to restore the structure.
“I think it’s a great cause. I would much rather save it than dismantle it,” said Mayor Ed Mayne.
Jack Peake, vice president of the E&N division, made a presentation to council outlining his group’s vision to include the water tower as part of a larger plan for a tourist train running from Parksville to Coombs.
ENCHRA can facilitate a steam locomotive tourist operation because the organization already owns equipment such as refurbished rail cars, according to Peake.
“Our group has a great deal of experience with the construction of railway facilities — we have over 100 years of history,” he said.
Peak said ENCHRA has received a letter of support from the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF), an organization dedicated to bringing passenger rail service back to Vancouver Island.
Coun. Adam Fras said he spoke with the ICF and confirmed the foundation was in favour of using its land for the tourism site, which would also include a small park by the tower and a parking area.
“I’m curious as to why you’re moving the water tower. Why don’t we just leave it where it is and save you some money?” said Mayne.
Peake explained the reason for moving the tower approximately 150 feet closer to the track was to put it in a location where it could provide water to steam locomotive engines in the future.
The original request was for $50,000, but Peake said the group could work with the amount provided by the city and had $20,000 of its own funds to use for the project.
When asked by Coun. Doug O’Brien about the condition of the water tower, Peake said the structure was inspected recently and found most of the deterioration was in the bottom layer of the tank.
“We’ve already identified all the material that would be required. We’ve identified a supplier who is willing to cut and measure and provide exactly what we need,” said Peake.
Coun. Al Greir expressed concern about costs to repairing the rail line. Peake said the ICF is responsible for maintaining the line itself and the money being requested was for the water tower only.
The relocation will be completed by June next year, according to Ed Robertson, acting director of operations for the city.
Peake said his organization would apply for heritage status through the federal government, which could supply grant money for the project.
“This water tower is the last fully intact original style tower on the E&N Railway. We see this as part of an opportunity to bring tourists to Parksville and area,” he said.