The Electoral Area GParks and Open Space Advisory Committee supports Dashwood residents’ plea to the regional district not to demolish the Little Qualicum Hall just yet.
The Dashwood Steering Committee appeared as a delegation at the POSAC meeting June 7. Bill Reed, a member of the steering committee, gave an overview of the hall’s history, it’s importance to the community and how they can help with the cost to renovate and upgrade it.
POSAC approved a motion made by Duane Round requesting the Regional District of Nanaimo postpone demolition of the heritage hall until further review and consultation with the Dashwood community. The request is not binding but Round said he hopes the RDN will consider it and have a change of heart.
The 1,350-sq. ft. hall is located on Centre Road and has been in the Dashwood community for more than 70 years.
The RDN already made a decision to tear it down, saying it would be too costly to upgrade and renovate it.
Round, who has more than 40 years experience in construction, had the opportunity to assess the building with some Dashwood residents just over a week ago. He found the building, which is believed to have been built in the 1940s by the Little Qualicum Women’s Institute, to be structurally sound.
“It’s an old building that was built with first-growth Douglas Fir lumber, which anybody knows in the business only gets stronger with time,” said Round. “It almost turns into, like, steel. It’s a very solid building.”
Even in the report by Bayview Engineering that was hired by the RDN to evaluate the building in 2013, Round said, it stated there was no water penetration from the roof or the walls. There are some repairs required but Round said they can be easily fixed.
“I think the RDN has an obligation to the Dashwood community to put some money into it,” said Round.
The RDN purchased the property in 1994 for $1. Round said, that’s four acres of land with a building.
“I haven’t seen any numbers or money that has been put into it as far as renovating or fixing anything,” said Round. “It’s been allowed to deteriorate to the point it needs a little bit of money. They turned this into a park and they should put something back into the community.”
The engineers quoted a preliminary cost of around $120,000 to renovate and upgrade the building. That does not include the cost to build an accessible ramp or to upgrade the washrooms, electrical systems and septic tanks. There may be other work required as part of the building permit process. Once all the other costs are factored in, the price tag could go up to close to $500,000.
Round believes it could be done for less.
“It’s in good shape and it would be a shame to see the building demolished,” said Round, who pointed out it needs a new roof and floor, which volunteers can undertake.
Dashwood residents regard the hall as a valuable asset to the community. It was built by residents and, over the years, many volunteers have helped maintain it, painted the hall and installed a new roof.
It’s a popular public gathering place and is the only venue close to the residents where they can hold festivals, parties, dinners, picnics, board and community meetings.
It is also critical for the Emergency Preparedness programs, designated as a command centre and as an assembly point in the event of an emergency.
Last year, the hall was booked 140 times, even in the condition that it is. The year before, there were more than 200 bookings.
Round also pointed out with the price of houses in Parksville and Qualicum Beach going up at an unaffordable rate, more and more families will look to Dashwood and Bowser areas.
“So the need for a community centre in that area will only increase in the future,” said Round.
Round suggested that the Dashwood community look at forming a non-profit society that will oversee the operation and Society and Lions Society that operates the Lighthouse Community Centre. At present, Dashwood volunteers are not allowed to make any repairs or improvements to the hall.
“If they are a society, then they can do the work themselves and fundraise in the community to improve it,” said Round.
Reed said the renovations or upgrades could be funded through fundraisers, money from the Community Works Fund and donations. Increasing hall rentals was given as an option.