When you visit Barkerville Historic Town and Park, you can spend hours looking at the historic buildings and learning from the costumed interpreters.
What you don’t see or experience is all the work that goes on behind the scenes, and during a community information session May 14 at Barkerville, a small group of area residents learned about some of the major projects taking place at the site this year.
Commerce department manager Dawn Leroy said Barkerville’s focus on increasing winter activities has gone well.
“Our focus around the winter activities is to draw visitors to the Wells-Barkerville area and create a winter economy,” she said. “It’s been very successful. We had more use of the ice skating rink this winter, and we had the tube run, and the cottage loading was quite good.”
Barkerville ended the winter season with a very successful Easter egg hunt in April, which saw 300 people find 1,800 pieces of chocolate in seven minutes.
“We have learned we have a market for the shoulder season,” said Leroy.
Preservation and presentation manager Jillian Merrick says the Old-Fashioned Victorian Christmas and Family Day events were very successful as well.
Two thousand people visited Barkerville for the Old-Fashioned Victorian Christmas, and Merrick says they will be investing in the event and expanding.
Merrick says 500 people visited for Family Day, and they have now built it into their regular budget to include interpreters for the holiday.
One of the big projects at Barkerville this year is creating staff accommodations.
“One of the biggest issues we’ve been dealing with the last few years is housing for seasonal employees,” said Leroy.
The Barkerville Heritage Trust received B.C. Rural Dividend Program grant funding and has installed an ATCO trailer at the Forest Rose Campground, she explained. The trailer can hold up to 26 people, and they have six tenants already.
“All of the merchants and licensees have been allocated a spot to meet their needs,” said Leroy.
During the community information session, both Leroy and Merrick highlighted the sixth annual Barkerville Indigenous Celebration, which will take place July 20, as a real focus this year.
“A really big Indigenous Celebration is planned this year, and we are going to be developing some interpretive trails with the park this summer with interpretive signage and plant identification, and we’ll be hiring an Indigenous programmer,” explained Leroy.
Merrick says the Indigenous Celebration will be the launch point for new Indigenous programming at Barkerville.
“We’ve undergone initial pre-season discussions about Indigenous programming, and we will be going full-bore when we have an Indigenous programmer,” she said.
Merrick is also excited about a new multimedia production that staff have been working on all winter. They have created an interactive experience with more than four hours of edited footage.
“It’s a mix of video and video game where you can click on things, and it will take you somewhere,” she explained.
They are looking at doing a soft launch of the production in June.
One of the big changes for 2019 is there will be no smoking anywhere on-site. The only smoking or vaping allowed will be at a designated spot in the parking lot, and that will apply to visitors, merchants and staff.
Barkerville Historic Town and Park officially opened for the 2019 season Thursday, May 16.
Barkerville is offering 50 per cent off admission prices for the month of May, and the first special event of the season is the Victoria Day Royal Tea Monday, May 20. There will be High Tea seatings at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at the Wake Up Jake.
Tickets for the either seating are $16.95 plus tax per person and can be purchased at the Wake Up Jake Restaurant. To reserve a seat, phone 250-994-3259.
Barkerville Heritage Trust CEO Ed Coleman says Barkerville is now the largest living museum of its kind in western North America. There are more than 125 heritage buildings, authentic displays, satellite museums, shops, restaurants and accommodations in Barkerville, which is owned by the Province of BC and was named a National Historic Site of Canada in 1924. Coleman says they are going for UNESCO World Heritage status, which is eight years away.
For more information about Barkerville and a full list of special events, visit barkerville.ca.