Volunteers revive society to help restore Morden Mine

NANAIMO – A newly elected Friends of Morden Mine board will try new avenues to save the Morden Mine head frame and tipple.

A refreshed Friends of Morden Mine Society has picked up the gauntlet to save a towering remnant of coal mining history.

“It’s kind of a last-ditch effort for the mine,” said co-president Sandra Larocque, of preserving the head frame and tipple at the B.C.’s Morden Colliery Historic Park. “It’s either now or never.”

A newly elected board will carry on a 12-year mission to rescue the relic, with plans to try different solutions.

It is a turnaround from last year, when the former board was prepared to fold the society. The dream had been to restore the deteriorating head frame and tipple, once used to lift and lower machinery and elevators into a mineshaft more than a century ago, but the group faced challenges, including financing, to get the work done. Restoration was estimated at $2.8 million.

The society was in the midst of a wind-down procedure when Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley and Larocque expressed a desire to keep it going, and new members were elected to the board.

Co-led by Larocque, it’s believed there are still avenues to try to save the concrete tower, from accessing grants to appealing to businesses and addressing the project in “baby steps” like removal of trees at risk of falling on the structure.

Morden is a piece of our history and worth saving, said Larocque, who envisions a museum on site much like Britannia Mine Museum near Squamish.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re going to give it a shot,” she said.

Routley, who is working with Friends of Morden Mine, said they aim to have a more open mind to different solutions than what’s been considered and seek support of local and international businesses. He plans to lobby the cement industry.

Morden is an important investment for the community and province because of its history and the economic opportunity to develop attractions, he said.

“We have so little physical representation of our history on the West Coast. We are a new country and we are allowing our basic elements of historical record to deteriorate and sink into the earth,” Routley said. “I think that is just wrong. Just plain wrong.”

It’s also short-sighted economically, he said, because industrial heritage like mining and logging is what travellers come to see.

Eric Ricker, former co-president of the society, wishes the new board members the best of luck but says they face a big job and one that will be far from easy.

Nanaimo News Bulletin