A group of Quesnel residents are planning to rally in protest of the relocation of the Quesnel Gold Pan at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 31.
The rally comes as preparations are beginning to take place by the City to relocate the gold pan from its current location on Highway 97 North, at the turnoff to Barkerville at Highway 26 where it has lived since 1987, to the BC Rail parking lot across from the Quesnel Visitor Centre and the Quesnel and District Museum and Archives.
The rally is being spearheaded by Quesnel resident Debra McKelvie who feels passionately that the gold pan stay where it is as at its current location as it serves as an iconic and historic landmark.
“The present location was carefully planned as this was and remains the junction north of Quesnel to our historic resources up Highway 26 better known as the Barkerville highway to locals,” said McKelvie.
McKelvie also believes that new home chosen for the gold pan may be a safety issue given its proximity to the train yard and the highway.
“The train yard is a terrible place to relocate our gold pan,” said McKelvie. “It is dangerous for tourists and locals alike to be crossing a very busy highway. Additionally the train yard is dangerous for children and pets. It’s an accident waiting to happen.”
McKelvie says she doesn’t see any long-term benefit to the community by relocating the gold pan and feels as though city council could have been more transparent during the decision-making and planning stages of the relocation project.
“I embrace change if it’s good for our community but I see no long term purpose in this foolish decision and I maintain that our Mayor and Council were short sighted in making this decision and were not as transparent about it as they claim they were. The money spent on this sign could be better utilized in our community especially with the shortfalls in revenue coming in with Covid 19,”said McKelvie.
Quesnel City Council voted in favour of relocating the gold pan in October of 2019 after hearing the final report of a wayfinding and place-making strategy project completed by the City in 2018 which recommended the gold pan be moved to a more central location.
The project included workshops with arts, culture and heritage groups and the business community, as well as an open house and survey for the public.
The Quesnel Train Station was selected as the new home for the gold pan because it can be easily accessed from Highway 97, which will allow visitors to access restaurants and shops, according to the City, which notes the new location is also close to the Visitor Information Centre, which has a lending program for gold panning and has RV parking, and the gold pan will be close to the Quesnel and District Museum and Archives.
On May 24 the Observer hosted a web poll on social media asking residents whether or not the supported the relocation of the gold pan. As of Wednesday, May 27, 2,044 individual and unique votes have been received, 1,748 in opposition of the relocation project and only 296 in support of it.
McKelvie says the Quesnel Pandemic Rally will take all appropriate physical distancing measures due to COVID-19 and encourages onlookers to do the same. Participants will be gathering in their vehicles at the gold pan at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 31 before forming a motorcade parade and driving through downtown Quesnel.