The rally didn’t pan out exactly how organizers hoped, but there were still about 40 vehicles and dozens of residents on hand Sunday afternoon to protest the City’s plan to move its larger-than-life gold pan from north end of Quesnel to the downtown sometime soon.
The rally got underway at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 31, and was spearheaded by Quesnel resident Debra McKelvie who feels passionately the gold pan should stay where it is as at on Highway 97 north, at the turnoff to Barkerville at Highway 26, where it has been since 1987.
“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.
City council, however, has already agreed to tie the gold pan into its long-term vision for the city by moving it to the BC Rail parking lot across from the Quesnel Visitor Centre and the Quesnel and District Museum and Archives where, on a typical year, 250 passengers of the Rocky Mountaineer embark every Tuesday and Thursday to check out the town.
Mayor Bob Simpson said the protests are simply a knee-jerk reaction to change, and that there is a greater plan in place to harness the power of tourism and also reinvent Quesnel as a true river city, complete with a robust, bustling riverfront downtown.
“If we fundamentally believe in our vision, then we have to act with the courage of our convictions,” Simpson told the Observer.
He noted moving the gold pan from the highway, where it is difficult to stop, to the downtown will give tourists a better chance to have their picture taken with the giant gold pan, making for a great marketing tool for the area. The new location will also include an interactive kiosk detailing the gold rush history of the area.
“At its current location, it doesn’t let us tell our story. Now we will literally be able to tell it to the whole world.”
The gold pan is just one small piece of the City’s vision to transform and diversify Quesnel over time. Other plans include the $1.4 million renovation of the museum, a new campground on Quesnel River where the public works yard is currently located, a rerouting of Highway 97 traffic away from Front Street to accommodate boutique businesses along the waterfront, more mountain bike trails with trail heads downtown, improvements to the foot bridge and the new embedded trampoline park at the Visitor Info Centre to name a few.
“We are building things that make us a preferred stop,” Simpson said. “We want to turn visitors into residents and residents into investors.”
The gold pan is slated to be moved to the Quesnel Train Station – located at 710 Legion Drive, better known as the Pacific Great Eastern Railway Station.