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Squamish council endorses three priority heritage actions

As part of the overall approval for the heritage strategy, initial actions intend to identify First Nations’ land use to inform heritage conservation.
1551 Pemberton Ave., which Coun. Eric Andersen mentioned as a building with heritage value.

Squamish council endorsed three priority heritage management actions at the Feb. 20 regular business meeting.

As part of their overall approval of the heritage management strategy, council unanimously endorsed three actions that, according to the strategy, intend to “identify and document historical First Nations' land use to help inform heritage conservation and community planning in the District [of Squamish].”

These three actions include: (1) amending the Official Community Plan and related bylaws to specify the circumstances when development applications in areas of high cultural interest need to provide archaeological impact assessment and impact mitigation, (2) developing a chance find protocol, which are guidelines for the discovery of known or suspected archaeological materials during construction, and (3) conducting an archaeological overview of the District to compile existing knowledge, including First Nations’ knowledge and land use.

“This is an important step to take, but we have a long way to go to fully realize what could be possible through a heritage management strategy,” said Mayor Armand Hurford.

There are four other overarching goals in the plan and many related action items. Some items of interest include establishing a heritage register and a community heritage commission. A register identifies properties considered to have heritage value whereas a commission oversees the management of heritage planning and activities.

However, all items beyond the priority actions are four years or more away from actuality.

“We’ve narrowed it down to priority actions that have come out of conversations with Squamish Nation staff,” Jonas Velaniskis, the senior director of community development, said to council. “Everything else essentially is delayed to at least four years from now for initiation.”

For example, Velaniskis said a commission may have long-term benefits but would require a lot of work at the start to begin that process.

Coun. Eric Andersen asked if there was enough policy at hand to start conversations about conserving several “at-risk” heritage assets, giving three examples with one located on Pemberton Avenue. But, Velaniskis said more time was needed.

“We don’t have a heritage register yet,” Velaniskis said. “We do try to flag any unofficial sources that we may have about a property and then what’s on it. … We’re on our way, but it’s going to take a bit longer to get there.”

Although Andersen hoped they would be able to start a heritage commission sooner, he ultimately supported the strategy.

"I do regret that we're not going to be able to get underway with a heritage commission or board this time,” said Andersen. “It seems to me that that would be in harmony with one of our strategic plan objectives. ... But that said, I suggest we make a start. And I think we're making a good one with this report to council, so it has my full support.”

Other council members said they appreciated the inclusion and mindfulness to ensure a heritage perspective from the Squamish Nation.

Local historical society calls on DOS for more immediate help

The Squamish Historical Society president told The Squamish Chief she hoped to see more immediate help from the District.

Speaking after the council meeting, Bianca Peters called on the District to immediately provide, at the very least, a 400-square-foot storage space for current archives the society maintains.

“What I'm looking for is space, a shed, something to put our storage in,” she said, adding that ultimately there needs to be a Squamish museum where locals can interact and learn.

Peters said the space could be used for all local heritage groups, not just the historical society which has been around since 2006. Currently, Peters said the society maintains temperature-controlled storage, but funding for the storage will run out in October.

The strategy does outline the storage need, in conjunction with supporting the Squamish Public Library’s plans to establish a community archive. Yet, the timeframe is estimated to be three to five years away.

Jessie Abraham, a municipal planning consultant, told council at the meeting that this action has been shared with the real estate department to consider in the pre-development plans underway, which may see a new combined muni hall and library. The District website notes that it intends to provide updates about this project in 2024.

View the heritage management strategy online through council’s Feb. 20 agenda via


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