By Kate Irwin
By the end of next month, the renovations of Invermere’s controversial Canadian Pacific Railway Lodge are scheduled to be completed.
This two-year journey, agree with it or not, has been a testament to the work of local volunteers, the lodge’s former owners, the heritage building society, donors (of money, time and materials) and the unsquashable enthusiasm of project manager Bob Kelly and Invermere’s mayor, Gerry Taft.
It was back in 2009 when the District of Invermere council voted against getting involved with financing the CPR Lodge project, citing cost, no site for the lodge to move to, and concerns the structure would be damaged irreparably by the move.
Although many wanted to see the building saved, including then-councillor Taft, the thought of putting $50,000 of Invermere taxpayers’ money into the reno stuck in the craw of council.
Now with almost $100,000 of Invermere’s tax money invested, and two years of time, it’s time to sit back and evaluate what we’re left with.
The lodge, constructed in 1920, is a link to the spread of tourism in the Columbia Valley — an industry which sustains the valley to this day. While few would question the validity of saving a slice of local history, the question of whether it’s council’s job to do it has been raised time and time again.
But the build is not just about preserving history, Invermere’s mayor argues. Before, the site, just beside Kinsmen Beach, contained a closed down tennis court and washroom building. In their place stands the historic building — which Taft envisions as being a mini community hall — plus new washrooms and landscaped grounds ready for possible bocce ball courts.
Without council’s financial intervention, it’s questionable whether the project would have ever made it this far. Whether it’s worth it, well, what do you think?