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A father fights to preserve Mission’s history from BC Hydro

Mission resident Larry Herr received a metal detector from his two daughters for Father’s Day based on the interest he had shown in looking around the now dry Ruskin Dam, near the Stave Falls Powerhouse in Mission. Upon using said device, he discovered an extremely well-preserved wagon wheel, which is still attached to the wagon itself. Wanting to bring this treasure out of the ground, Herr ran into problems with BC Hydro who insisted he stop digging in the area, or be faced with a hefty fine.

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By Katie Tegtmeier (Contributor) – Email

Print Edition: July 18, 2012

Father’s day is generally a day spent golfing, watching sports, or … using your new metal detector to discover what could be a great historical find.

Mission resident Larry Herr received a metal detector from his two daughters for Father’s Day based on the interest he had shown in looking around the now dry Ruskin Dam, near the Stave Falls Powerhouse in Mission. Upon using said device, he discovered an extremely well-preserved wagon wheel, which is still attached to the wagon itself. Wanting to bring this treasure out of the ground, Herr ran into problems with BC Hydro who insisted he stop digging in the area, or be faced with a hefty fine.

There are numerous contributing factors that have led BC Hydro to react in this manner. The most significant factor is that the discovery of this type of artefact could put the brakes on the upgrade to the dam that BC Hydro has been working towards. They may also face more difficulty with moving forward with their project because the land the artefact is buried in is part of Kwantlen First Nation Territory. This gives the First Nations people the power to retrieve the wagon from the ground if they feel it will benefit their new cultural repository and education reserve that is going to be built on Kwantlen’s main reserve near Fort Langley. BC Hydro has said that they will be working alongside the Kwantlen people as they reach their decision.

The find has caused many citizens to question what else could be buried in that same ground. It is possible that there are many other equally well-preserved artefacts out there.

Established in 1896, Ruskin was a community of sawmills, lumber mills and eventually power stations. It grew within itself in the early 1900s – enough to warrant a school for the town. Ruskin had a surge in population and employment, but as the employment opportunities slowly diminished, so did the town.

It is possible that the Kwantlen people will rescue any possible artefacts and preserve them, which is at the least what Larry Herr is hoping for. “…it might just get buried over and we won’t get to see it again. Not in our lifetime, anyway.” Herr said in an interview with The Province. In the same article it also said Herr had suggested the site be used for university students to learn more about archaeology.

Mission is home to a few other interesting finds, including a discovery in Xá:ytem, a gathering place for the Sto:lo people. They have found evidence proving that their settlement is the oldest in all of BC, proven by radiocarbon dating. Even they faced a potential development threat, which they avoided. So what does this say for the wagon wheel? Is all of Herr’s and his fellow enthusiasts’ hopes riding on the Kwantlen people to rescue this artefact? BC Hydro and the Kwantlen First nations will hopefully arrive at their decision soon, while everyone sits back idly, eager to hear the news: will the wagon keep on rolling?

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