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Charting a new course for Flamborough Head?

An ardent group of North Shore heritage defenders began making waves after learning that CNV council had voted unanimously to dismantle the HMS Flamborough Head stern.

They rallied around the North Vancouver-built Victory ship relic, organizing public demonstrations and a petition, writing letters to local papers, speaking at council meetings and emailing municipal leaders.

Other citizens joined them. Some of them had direct links to North Van's shipbuilding past.

On Monday, CNV councillor Pam Bookham responded to the last-ditch SOS to save Flamborough by tabling a motion to revisit council's decision last September to scrap the hulking artifact that has for years stood shrouded in shrink-wrap in front of Lower Lonsdale's Pinnacle Hotel on Victory Ship Way.

"One of the things that is moving me is the number of emails we've received from people who have direct family ties to the shipyards," Bookham told The Outlook prior to Monday's meeting. "Either they worked there or had family members who worked there. I think there is a sense that there is a great deal of insensitivity and I think that perhaps council had to be educated or reminded of that time and our responsibility of ensuring that that does not get lost."

"Basically it's a monument to the shipbuilders and those who sailed in those Victory ships and I think it represents a particularly magnificent moment in our history."

Even though it was necessary to decide the fate of Flamborough in-camera because of liability issues surrounding the stern, Bookham lamented the fact there was an outcry from the heritage community that the decision was made behind closed doors.

"I guess I'm particularly concerned about the feeling that this [decision] was done in the dead of night," she said. "I strongly believe that we need to be transparent in our decisions and any information that can be made available to the public should be made available."

In her motion Bookham requested staff to investigate options and financial implications for preserving the stern and that the discussion be in open council.

Bookham's motion received unanimous approval on Monday.

"The reason that I decided to agree to disposal of the Flamborough Head was, as I indicated last night at council, the information that we were given at that time was that there was a question of safety on the site… and that we had to act quickly," Coun. Don Bell explained on Tuesday.

And with the dismantling of the stern currently paused, Bell figures it's the ideal time to revisit Flamborough.

"I felt there was enough show of public support and, as I say, I am a fan of North Vancouver's history and preserving as much of it as we can. There have been a number of suggestions from different people and groups as to what could be done and I think we're now able to discuss it in public, and give consideration to those ideas in public."

Some of the ideas floated include turning it into a seaside viewing platform with a built-in educational component about shipbuilding in North Van and making public art out of portions of the stern.

The massive stern section of the HMS Flamborough Head sits not far from where it was launched on Oct. 7, 1944.

During the Second World War, North Vancouver's thriving shipbuilding industry supplied nearly 150 of the 10,000-ton Victory ships to the Royal Navy.

So far, the city has paid approximately $381,000 to have Flamborough's stern removed from the rest of the ship, transported to Lower Lonsdale, moved to its current location and shrink-wrapped.

The disposal cost for the stern could be as high as $250,000 because it contains amounts of asbestos, lead-based paint and pigeon poop, which is also considered a hazardous material.

The hazardous materials cleanup of the Flamborough is nearing completion. No demolition has taken place.

Bookham's motion was amended slightly to also instruct staff to ask Roger Brooks, the consultant currently working with the city on the waterfront vision, to look at the option of including Flamborough Head in the Lot 5 development plan.

Brooks, a Seattle-based branding and marketing guru, was scheduled to deliver his draft recommendations for Lot 5 on Feb. 3 to council but that meeting has been rescheduled.

"I think before we start dismantling it we need to have one last look at are there any opportunities out there for the stern or portions of the stern and the cost to maintain," said Mayor Darrell Mussatto.

"With council deciding to have a look at this I think it shows that council is being reasonable and we want the best for Site 5, and if we're able to include that in a way that's not too costly, and that can be incorporated into the overall vision, then that's a good thing," he added.

Heritage proponents have argued that the Flamborough Head would be a major tourist destination and provide an iconic homage to North Vancouver's storied shipbuilding past.

"The last reminder of the glory period [of North Vancouver shipbuilding] is Flamborough. There are no other examples available to us. We can't go out and get another one because there aren't any," John Stuart, president of the North Vancouver Preservation Society, told The Outlook during a walking tour of the area a few weeks ago.

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