Coleman on endangered places list 0
National attention has turned on the Crowsnest Pass as efforts to preserve the Coleman Collieries and other downtown Coleman landmarks heats up.
The Heritage Canada Foundation released the 10 most endangered historic buildings across Canada on July 7 in an annual list compiled to "bring national attention to sites at risk due to neglect, lack of funding, inappropriate development and weak legislation." The buildings were chosen due to their relative significance and how threatened they are for demolition or collapse. Most face a fate of being razed to make way for condo developments.
On the list is the "Crowsnest Pass mining complexes and Coleman's historic downtown. home to designated historic mining sites suffering from neglect, vandalism and development pressures."
Heritage Canada Foundation describes the Crowsnest Pass as a canary in a coalmine. "Coleman's fate may be a sign of more heritage destruction to come."
Also bringing attention to the issue is a series of newspaper articles written by Kyle Franz, a PhD candidate in history at Queen's University in Ontario. Franz's family is from the Pass with both sides having worked in some capacity for the mines.
Celebrating Canada Day, Dr. Franz published a story in the Globe and Mail lamenting Canada's neglect of our historical sites by permitting destruction to allow for development.
He points out that Coleman is historically significant, not only in terms of its historic buildings and the "gigantic green towers" of the mine, but because it was a hotbed for the Canadian labour movement and a community raised in multiculturalism long before the word was popularized.
"This is no ordinary community," writes Dr. Franz. "Though no utopia, it was ahead of its time."
The Coleman Collieries plant site, along with parts of downtown Coleman and west Coleman, were designated as a National Historic Site in August 2007 by Park Canada. During the official commemoration, Ted Menzies, Member of Parliament for Macleod, said the area was designated because "it recognizes the importance of the coal industry in the economic development of western Canada and of the vibrant communities which were formed around it."
Although many speeches were made about Coleman's historical importance at the time, the designation places no restrictions on private property. The Historic Sites and Monuments Act doesn't allow for any protection for any historic sites when they are in private hands.
In 1998 Luscar became the owner of the Coleman Collieries site when it acquired the assets to Manalta Coal Ltd. Most of the property is currently owned by Coal Valley Resources Inc. (CVRI), which is part of Sherritt International Corporation who acquired Luscar in 2001.
According to David Brand, environment manager with CVRI, his company has an agreement in place with Green Mountain Properties to sell it to them once all the approvals and remediation work has been done. Green Mountain is the development company who plans to build on the site.
Reclamation studies were completed in 2005, public open houses were held in 2006, and in October 2007, the land was rezoned from Non-Urban land to Residential.
In February 2009, Coal Valley Resources Inc. requested a letter of support from the municipality to the province for demolition approval of the Coleman Collieries.
Buildings to be demolished include the raw coal bins, the coal preparation plant and associated conveyors, the rail car loadout, and the scale house. According to Gordon Lundy, chief administrative officer, an approval letter was sent on March 19.
Studies on site contaminants were completed in the fall of 2005, including assessments of the soil, ground water, river water and buildings on the site.
Brand said CVRI has a commitment to clean the site to residential standards and will begin all the necessary remediation work soon. They have also recently completed an extensive report including photographs and interviews in relation to the site.
"It's a very complex process, but we're meeting all our obligations to the Alberta government," said Brand. "We've spent countless years on this."
With the approval of Alberta Environment and the municipality, the only approval left to receive is from Alberta Culture & Community Spirit.
According to Lisa Shankaruk, public affairs officer with Alberta Culture & Community Spirit, when a site has a historical designation, an assessment must be done to see if parts of the building are of historical significance or there are any resources inside that should be saved. They send an archeologist to come out to the site and look at the area.
Shankaruk said if the site had provincial designation it would be protected, but national designations are "commemorative" not protective.
The assessment has not been completed, she said, but they are in the last steps of the process.
No timeframe for a decision was given.