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EDITORIAL: Preserving the past important for all communities

When history is gone, it is nearly impossible to replace it. It’s a struggle each community has to face as it needs to look forward for future generations, but not forget the past it came from.

When history is gone, it is nearly impossible to replace it.

It’s a struggle each community has to face as it needs to look forward for future generations, but not forget the past it came from.

In an area as rich in history as the Bow Valley, it can often be a conundrum as people flock to live here with a limited land supply available to house everyone.

At the heart of preserving history is the memory of a way a community used to be, a character that is unique to an area of the country and providing a link to the past, present and future.

In Canmore, many of the historical sites and remnants of its mining past have been lost to time, growth and renovations. While sites such as Quarry Lake and the Engine Bridge show a glimpse of that past, it’s few and far between.

Banff council will soon have a look at its new heritage master plan and the path forward in saving important treasured properties in the community.

After setting aside $40,000 in 2021 and then rolling it into 2022, Town staff will recommend to council the best practices, methods and incentives to help preserve and protect heritage homes.

The existing financial offer from the Town of Banff for heritage properties comes in two forms: a grant in aid of municipal taxes capped at $45,000 or matching restoration or rehabilitation grant that tops out at $25,000 for residential and $50,000 for non-residential – only if the property is designated a municipal historical resource by bylaw.

There are several heritage properties preserved that add a different element for remembering Banff’s history.

In recent months, other heritage homes could face the end of the line.

The Kidney House at 328 Muskrat St. will go to Banff's development appeal board today (Thursday, April 21). The 1908 Rutherford House at 525 Buffalo St. was purchased by the Bowstrings Heritage Foundation and will undergo a costly renovation to save the riverfront cottage.

And while it would be easy for a municipality to simply buy out a plot of historical property, financially it’s not an open and shut case.

One look at the price of land nearly anywhere in the country shows the cost to buy up historical sites is largely impractical for most people and organizations.

For those who own a heritage home, the price to upkeep it can be staggering financially, let alone include modern amenities. Homes in the 19th Century weren’t designed for internet or an abundance of electrical outlets.

Repairs are also likely to be a constant reality of life and each fix is likely to have an owner ponder if a new roof or windows is worth it.

There are also almost always specific regulations for a heritage homeowner to follow when it comes to repairs, so it’s not as simple as knocking out a wall or redoing a bathroom.

The saying ‘they don’t build them like they used to’ isn’t always the case. Throughout the 20th Century, homes were quickly raised to meet demand with corners cut and safety regulations sacrificed for the immediate need.

In the Second World War, for example, strawberry box houses or victory housing, were quickly raised to meet the pressure felt across the country for workers and returning soldiers. The architecture left much to desire as the aim was a roof over heads.

As time went on, many of those houses were rebuilt or torn down completely or a new build took its place.

It’s important to find ways to preserve the past without jeopardizing the future.

But with history having a special meaning and impact on any community, all options should be exhausted before abandoning the past.