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A vision for Britannia Beach



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"A lawyer told me, ‘let’s say a way was found to legally get the vessel out of the country,’" Thomas recounts.

The Prince George was being towed to China with the intention of being taken to a breakage yard, but the vessel never made it.

"It sank somewhere in the Pacific," says Thomas.

Making the vision of a maritime heritage park a reality involves a lot of bureaucracy, but so far the process has gone quite smoothly.

"We’ve been working on an application for a water and lands lease from B.C. Assets and Lands for about a year, but only formalized (the application) a month ago," says Thomas. "We have a lot of support from the Squamish Lillooet Regional District, and we are actually written into the community plan."

Most of the people in the SLRD support the idea of a maritime heritage park. Detraction comes from a lack of funding, as well as some private concerns.

"Every time new projects come on that are extremely worthwhile and exciting, those who are already struggling look to say, ‘OK, how do we continue to do more with less?’ says Kirstin Clausen, manager and curator of the B.C. Museum of Mining at Britannia Beach.

A recent announcement that the Ministry of Heritage Trust has been abolished doesn’t help.

"There was only $2 million being spent on hundreds of museums, so museums have gotten very good at survival of the fittest," Clausen continues.

Dave Lewis has lived in Britannia for eight and a half years, and thinks a maritime park would be an excellent idea for the community.

"I’d like to see it, I really would," he says. "I think the concept is great."

But there is a lot of politics in Britannia and uncertainty about what is possible in the community. I felt some of this while driving through Britannia to Squamish. The place looked deserted, and frankly almost scary. Yet coming back down the hill into the town, the little hamburger place was open, there was smoke pouring out of the chimney and the whole scene looked inviting. With the proximity of Britannia Beach to both Vancouver and Whistler, maybe it is sights like these that fuel Thomas’ optimism.

"We’re here," he says. "We share a vision of turning this into a historic village."