Heritage preservation sought for Belcarra cabins

Jo Ledingham and members of the Belcarra South Preservation Society are lobbying to save their rental cottages, which face the wrecking ball to make way for a park expansion. - DIANE STRANDBERG/THE TRI-CITY NEWS
Jo Ledingham and members of the Belcarra South Preservation Society are lobbying to save their rental cottages, which face the wrecking ball to make way for a park expansion.

Several picturesque cottages on the edge of Belcarra Regional Park are slated for demolition to make way for an expanded picnic area and trail.

But the residents of the tiny wood-heated cabins owned by Metro Vancouver Parks think the homes should be saved — and the Port Moody Heritage Commission agrees with them.

Tonight, Tuesday, the issue was to be put before Port Moody council.

Jo Ledingham and Michael Aelson, two longtime residents of the Belcarra south cabins, have contacted local heritage preservationists, including PoMo Station Museum curator Jim Millar and PoMo heritage commission member Coun. Rick Glumac, in the hopes of obtaining a heritage designation for the cabins that would stave off eviction. In addition to garnering support for a heritage designation, the residents have also submitted a proposal to open up a trail to a beach and hold public events for artists, boaters and nature lovers.

But Metro Vancouver hasn’t been swayed and, in October, its board voted to push ahead with plans to demolish the early-20th century cottages for a future trail and picnic area expansion. There are plans, however, to stabilize and secure Bole House, a larger home nearby that was built by and lived in by a Belcarra pioneer family.

“It is public property and it is prime waterfront and the long-term plan is for future expansion to the picnic area,” Ron Wood, acting manager for central area parks for Metro Vancouver, said of the other cottages.


The residents, who pay $500 a month in rent, have been given until the end of June to leave, although a demolition date hasn’t been scheduled; the picnic area is supposed to be complete by 2020 and a trail might be built earlier.


The cottages sit amidst towering evergreens with an expansive view of Burrard Inlet and Deep Cove. A small trail leads to a shell-strewn beach that, at low tide, would only be big enough for a large family barbecue. The cabins look well maintained and most have small nature-scaped gardens.

Ledingham, who cooks on an oil-fired stove and has keys to get in and out of Belcarra Park at night, says the buildings are not insulated and while the life isn’t for everyone, she thinks the cabins should be maintained as an example of early cottage life in Port Moody.

She and Aelson, a School District 43 employee, say they and the six other cabin dwellers are willing to continue to maintain and upgrade the cabins and have already put in considerable work and expense for upkeep.

Aelson, who grew up in the cabin in which he lives, says the demolition plans ignore the work and money the residents have already put into the cabins to keep them habitable and safe.

“It’s not respectful of the time we put in and the improvements we made,” he said.


But Metro Vancouver Parks believes the cabins don’t have heritage value and would be too expensive to upgrade. “The costs for fixing these buildings are substantial and would take years to pay back if dependent on rent alone,” a report prepared last year for the board stated.

The residents, meanwhile, say renovation costs were inflated to justify demolition. “We have appealed at every level. We are doing this not just for the cottages but to protect the heart of the community,”  Ledingham said.

Meanwhile, Port Moody Station Museum curator Jim Millar sides with the residents on the historical value of the cabins. He helped author the statement of significance that PoMo council was expected to consider at its meeting last night, after The Tri-City News’ print deadline.

“It’s part of the whole development of Port Moody in the early days,” Millar said. “People would come from New Westminster to go by the sea shore and it was the summer vacation spot.

“The way I look at it, the cottages have been there for 100 years and people have been living in them full-time since the ’60s. What harm are they doing? Just leave them alone.”


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