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Getting bites on preserving fish heritage

Group exploring ways to showcase the industry's rich history in these parts

A local group hoping to preserve elements of Delta fishing heritage is encouraged some of its ideas could become reality.

Formed over two years ago, the Delta Fishing Heritage Committee has been exploring avenues that would allow for the preservation of the industry's history, including providing opportunities for the interpretation of that history to the public.

Initiated by longtime resident and former councillor Doug Massey, the committee is working closely with the Delta Museum and Archives Society.

Massey and museum executive director Mark Sakai recently appeared at a Delta council workshop to explain some of the ways the municipality can incorporate the reminders of the community's fishing heritage into the redevelopment of the Ladner waterfront, as well as locations in North Delta.

"We've outlined the fact that anything that is developed in Delta along the waterfront, especially in the historical sites, that they give serious consideration to including fishing heritage artifacts and even displaying of fishing boats," Massey told the Optimist.

Saying they also want displays of Delta's farming history, Massey said he's encouraged by the feedback from the municipality.

"We told them we're really not here to interfere with the redevelopment of the Ladner Harbour.

We're here to make sure they include in their future developments some recognition of and the possibility of display of the history," Massey said.

The volunteer group had originally eyed using the Delta-owned Seven Seas fish plant building or the old Brackman-Ker building on Chisholm Street as potential locations for historical displays or interpretive centres. However, the Brackman-Ker building collapsed into the harbour last year, while the municipality is looking to use the Seven Seas site for commercial ventures, issuing a request for proposals for the redevelopment of the property.

Massey noted public displays, including artifacts and interpretation panels, could still be set up throughout the area.

The committee is also looking for a permanent home for two wooden fish boats - the Persia Fisher and Georgia Star - which were donated by a pair of local fishing families. The committee wants to consolidate the storage of the boats into a single, dry land location where they can be repaired and restored for public display.

Massey said one idea suggested to his committee is having displays at Wellington Point Park.

"It is in the right location in the sense it is where the majority of the actual commercial fishing took place.

They'll bring back a report on it. There would be no public funds spent there but it could be a location, if we raise funds privately, for a covered but open interpretive centre for a boat and other large artifacts."

Massey noted his committee has also asked Metro Vancouver about the possibility of utilizing Deas Island Regional Park for historical displays, because the area for decades had a thriving fishing community of Greek descent.

Thanks to a donation from a local resident, the committee has also been working on an oral history project, gathering stories from fishing pioneers. As of last month, six interviews have been completed, while the project has resulted in additional donations of photographs and stories.

Meanwhile, on another front, a separate group called Ladner Harbour Fishers is working on a proposal for a ferry between Ladner and Steveston.

Coun. Bruce McDonald, who's on the parks and recreation commission where the topic was raised, said he doesn't know what will be proposed, but a report will be coming.

Saying it would take a lot of persuading for him to agree to put municipal money in such a project, McDonald said a ferry is an idea that's come up before.

sgyarmati@delta-optimist.com