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Posted: July 11, 2021

Baker Hill Heritage Association is having a revival

“Perceptions,” by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

What a great way to celebrate the hottest day in Cranbrook’s history.

On June 29, with the temperature sitting at a torrid 41 C, almost 30 members of the Cranbrook Baker Hill Heritage Neighbourhood Association gathered in the cooling shade of Rotary Park downtown to hold its 2021 annual general meeting and it was about time according to outgoing association president Greg Eaton.

There were no minutes to read from the previous AGM and no meetings at all since 2018 because the association was basically “dormant,” Eaton admitted. “So, now’s the time to start things going again and maybe even get going on another project.” And before the sweltering meeting was over the association did just that, electing a new president and board of directors in a revival of a group that has kept the flame of heritage appreciation burning in Cranbrook.

Acclaimed president was Trent Brereton, treasurer Sioux Browning and vice-president Angus Davis, while the new board of directors consists of Greg Eaton, Karen Crawford, Angus Davis, Sioux Browning and Trent Brereton. All positions were filled by acclamation.

It was quite a comeback for an organization that has had its ups and downs over the years trying to preserve the historic Heritage Hill area just south of the downtown where most of the stately homes of Cranbrook exist after being built with the coming of the CPR Crowsnest Pass Railway in 1898.

But the association is also concerned with heritage matters in the entire city which hasn’t always been known for celebrating its colourful history. However, Brereton says he hopes to change the situation once he gets settled in his new position and he emphasized that you don’t have to live on Baker Hill to belong to the association.

Browning told the group that heritage preservation is more than just saving old buildings. “We are preserving part of our community’s identity and the stories of some of the people who built it.”

Heritage preservation also makes a major contribution to tourism and the city’s economy, she said.

Honorary member Gerald Hudson traced the association’s history from its beginning in 1997 including getting the city to replace all the street signs in the Baker Hill neighbourhood with colourful new ones that also bore the original street names as well as the numbers. The association also did a detailed inventory of all the unique historical features found on Baker Hill which became the foundation for the city’s Baker Hill Heritage Bylaw.

The association also produced a newsletter for the area, hosted a tea and tour of some of the grand homes and raised money for the stone entrance arch on 9th Avenue at the entrance to downtown, Hudson said.

The association also contributed almost $30,000 to the restoration of the historic brick Water Works Building behind City Hall (pictured), a move that was originally opposed by almost the entire city council.

The association is also participating in the city’s upcoming process on downtown revitalization having been invited by the city as one of the local stakeholder groups providing input.

The meeting also heard a presentation from Gladys Laing on The Foundry, a special medical support centre for young people in the city.

Former Railway Museum CEO Garry Anderson reminded the group that much remains undone on residents’ goals for Baker Hill while former MP and city mayor Wayne Stetski provided the group with a link to a federal document on preserving Canada’s heritage.

The meeting also voted to induct 11 new Honorary Lifetime Members to the association for outstanding volunteer service to the group. The new honorary members are: Karen Crawford, Bob Sperling, Tootie Gripich, Bill and Gay Renyk, Linda Miller, Angus and Arlene Davis, Garry Anderson and Deanne and Bill Perreault.

– Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and a bit of an antique as well.


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