Redevelopment in store for Taylor Visitor Centre

A replica of the canoe used by Alexander Mackenzie during his exploration of the Peace River has been restored and will be unveiled on Monday, May 15th.

The District of Taylor is eyeing a revamp of its Visitor Information Centre.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, councillors unanimously approved a pair of resolutions that will see the district apply for a range of funding to update the centre, with plans to include a new building showcasing an antique fire truck and other equipment once used by the district, a complete refurbishment of Alexander Mackenzie’s replica canoe, and other improvements to the centre.

The district is hoping to snag money from the Canada 150 Fund, a $150-million community infrastructure pot to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017.

That same year, the 75th anniversary of the construction of the Alaska Highway will also be commemorated.

“It all fits. It’s the Peace River, the discovery of the country, the movement westward,” Taylor Mayor Rob Fraser said.

A four-person committee made up of councillors and district staff will come up with a redevelopment plan. No budget has yet been set, but the committee will have to move fast to put together an application for the Canada 150 Fund, with the first round of applications due June 17.

Fraser is confident the district will have something in place by then.

The district has been looking to showcase the fire truck for some time, Fraser said.

“(It) makes good sense that we build a building (at the centre). So then it was a matter of where do we place it? And the best place to place it is where the canoe is.” he said.

“Then what do you do with the canoe? Well, it’s kind of getting old and ratty, but it’s a historical feature of our community, and a lot of people have appreciated it being there even though it’s taken a bit of a beating,” he said.

The white and red wood canoe is a replica of the original one explorer Alexander Mackenzie used during his Peace River expedition in the late 1700s while trying to find a route to the Pacific Ocean. The Kyllo family donated the canoe to the district decades ago, which has since become a fixture for residents and tourists driving through, said Coun. Brent Taillefer.

“Having it there for people who have grown up here, who have passed through here and seen it and taken pictures with it… It’s become a part of Taylor,” he said.

“It would be very valuable to protect it. It need some repairs before it’s too late.”

There is another replica of the canoe at Peace Island Park.

The antique fire truck is a 1942 Ford one-ton truck that was converted into a fire engine, according to Fire Chief Alan Stebbing. It was the first fire truck used by the District, and was acquired from the Village of Pouce Coupe in 1958.

“We’re very proud of our fire department and the fact that we’re very lucky to have the original fire engine,” said Stebbing.

While the truck is taken out occassionally for parades, it spends much of its time sitting in the back of the fire hall unseen to the public, and taking up space that could otherwise be used by the department, Stebbing said.

Stebbing says firefighters are willing to volunteer their time to construct the building, if funding is secured for materials.

“It becomes very much a community-built building. There’s a lot of pride in this,” he said.

More than 6,200 people visited the centre in 2014, according to district figures.