PORT McNEILL—The Coal Harbour Community Club has some hard labour ahead of it in the coming months.
And its members couldn’t be happier.
The North Island Heritage Society, following the lead of the Regional District of Mount Waddington Board of Directors, gave its stamp of approval last week to a proposal by the Coal Harbour group to house the historic Hornsby Crawler steam tractor — provided the community fulfills its commitment to preparing a site for the machine’s display and protection by Sept. 15.
“I’m looking forward to the big grand opening,” NIHS president Hiltje Ramsey said in the wake of applause that followed the vote on the motion, which took place during the society’s Apr. 11 annual general meeting.
The CHCC can now move ahead with fundraising efforts to install a concrete pad for the 25-ton tracked machine in a 1940s-era RAF building that more recently served as Coal Harbour’s community hall before falling into disuse in the 1990s.
Once the pad is in place, heritage society members agreed, the Hornsby can be moved to Coal Harbour from the Lemare Lake Logging Co. yard south of Port McNeill, where it has been sitting since last August.
Before last week’s heritage society approval, the CHCC was stuck in a Catch-22. The group has the property, which has been transferred to the RDMW under a heritage registry bylaw requirement, and volunteer help ready to roll up its sleeves to prepare the site.
But without assurance the Hornsby would end up on the property, it was unable to secure funds to match a $5,000 commitment from the Regional District to begin preparing the final resting site for the historic machine.
“The community club will need to begin the fundraising effort,” said Hory, who is in the unique position of being a member of both the CHCC and the heritage society — as well as Area C director to the RDMW board. “What we basically have is a commitment from professional concrete pourers that they’ll work at cost, or less than cost, or even just consult from the side and lend the materials. So we have strong commitment to get stuff done if we get approval for this proposal.”
Most of the debate at the meeting was focused not on the proposal, but on the CHCC’s offer to take possession of the Hornsby early, and store it adjacent to the old community hall while work commenced inside the building in preparation for the machine’s final move inside.
Hory got support from some society members — including RDMW administrator Greg Fletcher and director of economic development Neil Smith — when he suggested delivery of the Hornsby prior to completion of the project would provided an incentive to volunteers, kick-start public interest in viewing the Hornsby at its new site, and relieve Lemare of the burden of storing it.
“I understand in a volunteer effort, it’s way easier to get guys out on a Sunday at 8 a.m. if the piece is sitting there and they can lean on it for their coffee,” said James Furney. “And I’m sure (Lemare) would like their real estate back.”
But other members, mindful of the seven years the Hornsby went wandering when Surrey’s George Hoffman “borrowed” it for six months for display in a heavy equipment expo in Alberta, were leery of dropping it in what they perceived as an unsecured location.
Fletcher, the RDMW administrator, provided a compromise solution when he noted completion of the concrete pad by the CHCC would assure an eventual covered resting site for the Hornsby and fulfill the proposal to the Regional District’s satisfaction.
Smith sealed the deal when he noted the Hornsby would be eligible for inclusion in the RDMW heritage registry when it arrived at its final site — but no sooner.
“I’d be happy with that,” Ramsey said of moving the Hornsby to the Coal Harbour property when the cement goes in — even if it requires another month to fully cure for the 25-ton machine. “Once that cement pad is poured, then you know it’s a go and it meets the obligation that’s required by the Regional District.
In a secondary motion, the heritage society approved drafting a letter to Lemare Lake Logging officials, explaining the timeline for the Coal Harbour project while adding its thanks for the company’s cooperation in storing the machine since it was returned to the North Island by Hoffman under court order last summer.