To the Editor:
The popular Grist Mill and Gardens at Keremeos are in serious trouble and, sadly, the core of the matter seems to be political indifference.
The Grist Mill, a provincially designated heritage site, has been operating under a series of short-term contracts with no long-term commitment from the Province. Bidding for future contract operation of this site closed last September. Four months later the Minister has announced no decision. (Steve Thompson is the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, including Heritage Sites.)
“If someone else has proposed a better idea we ought to know about it by now. The bidding process ended last September” says Grist Mill Foundation Chairman, Dave Cursons.
The Keremeos Grist Mill and Gardens is a community asset and a significant driver for the area. However, no business commitments, bookings, event plans, grant applications or staffing decisions can be made for the site for the coming season.
The incumbent operator, Chris Mathieson has brought new energy to the site. In 2013 and 2014 there has been a phenominal growth in visitation driven by special events, more frequent interpretive tours, evening concerts, and talks by special guests on everything from bee keeping to bird watching. The Mill’s gardens have become a favorite site for artists and photographers whose work is for sale in the Visitor’s Centre Gift Shop.
“Designated historic sites like Barkerville and Fort Steele have found some independence but still rely upon very considerable government support,” says Cursons.
A win-win solution in the case of the Keremeos Grist Mill and Gardens would have the province gradually reduce its financial contribution while enabling the site to flourish through energetic and capable management.
Government should live up to its stewardship responsibility for the Grist Mill and Gardens at Keremeos and support the preservation of this historic site as a heritage treasure for all British Columbians.
We urge Minister Thompson to accept the government’s responsibility and to immediately award a long-term contract necessary to “keep the wheel of the Grist Mill turning.”
Any inquiries may be directed to the Grist Mill Foundaiton Chairman, Dave Cursons, at 250-499-5417.
For the Grist Mill Foundation