Tumbler Ridge Mayor says museum needs to make changes if it wants funding reinstated

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TUMBLER RIDGE, B.C. — The Mayor of Tumbler Ridge says changes need to be made to the way the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation is being run if it wants funding from the District to be reinstated.

On March 5th, the District of Tumbler Ridge denied the Museum Foundation’s request for a grant of $200,000 at a District Council meeting. During the meeting, Councillor Will Howe raised his objection to providing the funding after the Foundation did not reply to a Council request to provide more information on the funding request. 

“We had a roundtable discussion where all of them were allowed to come down and explain how this works.,” said Howe during the meeting. “To me, that was the opportunity for the museum board to come down and explain to us why they need the two hundred thousand dollars. To me, until we get that done, I don’t fully understand it, and I’m not to spend the $200,000.”

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On March 8th, the Museum Foundation gave notice to all staff that the Museum would being closing after the grant request was denied. 

This past Wednesday, the Museum Foundation sent out a press release announcing that it had signed a new memorandum of understanding with the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark Society, setting out an agreement on collaboration and mutual support. The agreement replaces an existing agreement which was signed by the Foundation and the Tumbler Ridge Aspiring Geopark Steering Committee, prior to the area being designated as a Global Geopark by UNESCO in 2015. The Geopark is one of only two to attain the UNESCO designation in North America.

Tumbler Ridge Mayor Don McPherson said that the signing of the MOU is an important step in the Foundation being reconsidered for funding, but that Council still has some concerns with the way the museum is operating. McPherson explained that since he became Mayor in 2014, the museum has received over $1.4 million in funding, and nearly $2.5 million in funding from the District alone over the past 15 years. He added that including the use of the building, the cost of funding the museum works out to $1,500 per resident each year.

“With the proper management, that should carry them somewhere,” said McPherson. “If there is a ripple like we’ve just had, they shouldn’t automatically be shutting down. It doesn’t seem to ever be enough for them to keep operating, they’ve always got issues. We want them to look at the way they are running this and start… you’ve got to operate within your budget. I know they blame us because we held back funding this year, but they do have other funding.”

McPherson said that had the MOU been signed earlier, the District would have seriously considered reinstating the funding. However, he explained that councillors still have concerns.

“Our concern is that what we see the museum doing for Tumbler Ridge and why we invest so heavily in it is the tourism aspect and drawing people to town and being part of our Geopark. They see it as more of a scientific-type thing. That isn’t what we invested in it for. They just can’t seem to see that. We’ve talked to I don’t know how many experts on museums. They say new museums operate maybe 20 percent of the budget on scientific research. The rest of it is all tourism and promotion. That’s what keeps the doors open. One thing we’ve always said is, if you take your kids into that museum, we’d like them to enjoy that. There should be things for the kids to do in there. There isn’t. You walk through there and the kids are there for five minutes and they’re bored and want to get out of there. I’ve been to the Royal B.C. Museum, they’ve got little things for kids to build, simple stuff, not even expensive stuff. We just can’t seem to get them interested in that type of thing.”

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