Five minutes erased 102 years of Fort Langley history. That is all it took for the Langley Township council, except for Councilors David Davis and Kim Richter, to approve the burial of a prominent segment of the village's overhead wires and history.
The Fort Langley National Historic Site depicts the life and structures of the 1800s, and the Village of Fort Langley, which grew up around that fort, depicts life in the period from the early 1900s to the early 1950s. Both have been designated as Provincial Heritage Sites, although the fort, itself, is under federal jurisdiction.
The village development is subject to an Official Community Plan drawn up with consultation and direction from concerned citizens, Township council and others.
The burying of the overhead wiring was inconceivable at the time, because of their inexorable link with the town's beginnings.
Charles Hope, president of the Fort Langley and District Board of Trade, who in 1910 arranged for the BC Electric Railway to string power poles from Jardine to Fort Langley, making the village the first recipient of electrical energy in the Fraser Valley.
Thus the Electrical Age arrived, spelling the end of kerosene and gas lamps and ushering in a new era of agricultural and industrial machinery and implements into the homes and farms.
When the question of burying the wires arose a few years ago, Dr. Gary Smith chaired a town meeting that resoundingly rejected the proposal, because of the integral link to the Fort Langley village heritage, and the disruption to the street.
Why was their no real opportunity for public input and discourse into a matter of this magnitude and completely contravenes the Official Community Plan?
How could a Township council, representing all the people of the community, spend only four minutes of discussion on this decision, then two minutes to vote approval?
One member was heard to say, "Where's heritage in wires?"
Bob Blackhall, Langley