The mood went from sombre to celebratory as members of the Grist Mill Foundation found out the heritage site will run under current management for at least a year or possibly 10.
After months of waiting current manager Chris Mathieson received word his contract was being renewed for April 1 by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. He told board members at their regular meeting at the heritage site Monday afternoon.
“The single most important thing is to say a big thank you to the community. I have no doubt that the incredible showing of support they have for this site is what ensured this for us going forward,” he said.
The good news couldn’t have come soon enough as board members had congregated at the site to brainstorm innovative ideas to lobby the government to make a decision, Dave Cursons, chair of the Grist Mill Foundation said.
“We’re greatly relieved,” he said. “Today’s meeting was going to be about what we were going to do move this along but this appears to have come to a happy continuance.”
Although the lease is only guaranteed for one-year, the Foundation feels confident Mathieson will be able to secure the property for the next 10 years.
“We’re thinking of this as 10 years and we’re happy about it,” Cursons said.
Mathieson Heritage Services, owned by Mathieson, has had stewardship of the Grist Mill since 2013.
During that time he’s held many successful events and over the last year more than 11,000 visitors frequented the historical site.
“We want to continue to build on that. This site has unlimited potential,” Mathieson said.
The province originally set a request for proposal deadline for the end of September 2014, which Mathieson met. A decision was expected well before the beginning of 2015.
Mathieson acknowledged the delay caused him to miss out on some marketing opportunities to try attract more visitors to the site.
“We did miss out on some but I’m very optimistic that we will be able bring a lot of people in. We’ll need to rely on the community for continued support on getting the word out about what we do and coming to our events,” he said.
The Grist Mill has been closed since before Christmas during its regular winter shutdown.
The site was expected to re-open within a few weeks but because of uncertainty some much needed structural work was not completed during the shutdown period.
Mathieson thought the site might be closed until May.
“We have a lot of work to get done here. A lot of structural things need to be done,” he said.
The Foundation will hold its annual general meeting in the tea room on February 26 at 7 p.m. Members and the public are welcome.
Keremeos Grist Mill was purchased by the province as a heritage property in 1979. The five-hectare property includes a visitor centre, gardens and a camping and RV site. Since 2002, the province has invested $1.35 million in the property.