Letter: Fort Langley tourism numbers exaggerated in anti-Coulter Berry assault

Dear Editor,

Opinion about the singular importance of tourism to Fort Langley businesses is often based upon the wild premise that there are 200,000-plus tourists coming to Fort Langley [Coulter Berry virtues extolled beyond reasonable proportions, Feb. 26 Letters, wwwlangleyadvance.com] – clearly an uninformed opinion.

The most recent figures from the federal government for the Fort Langley National Historic Site say that 71,285 people visited the site in 2012-2013, a 13 per cent drop over the previous year’s attendance, and a sharp contrast to the more than 270,000-plus visitors per year that Burnaby village has been getting.

Either the majority of “tourists” are visiting the village of Fort Langley independent of its biggest historical draw, or the 200,000-plus figure is a gross exaggeration.

The second bit of uninformed opinion upon which many an argument relies has to do with the heritage value of the commercial properties in Fort Langley.

According to the 1999 out-of-print book, Langley’s Heritage: A Listing of Heritage Resources (being passed off as Langley’s Community Heritage Register), there are three existing commercial properties of heritage value within the Heritage Conservation Area: Marr house; Coronation Block, and the building where Country Antiques is situated.

The Haldi house, which was once the Bedford House restaurant, and Reid’s Garage, which has been torn down, are not in commercial use.

Most of the Fort Langley properties on the heritage “register” are either institutions or residences. Of the 30 Fort Langley items listed on the Langley heritage inventory (a larger, more informal list of properties and trees that have been identified as having heritage value) eight are residences, eight are trees, 10 are institutions (churches, museums, cemeteries, the community hall, and Glover Road), and three are commercial premises.

Reid’s Garage has been demolished. The churches, cemeteries, the vast majority of residences, and even the fort itself are outside of the heritage conservation area.

Most of the heritage value of Fort Langley isn’t even in the heritage conservation area.

If the heritage theme was adopted for the commercial core, as it says in the Fort Langley Community Plan, “to increase its appeal to visitors,” then it is time to do a comprehensive evaluation of the success of those policies in terms of improving business.

Just because a few disgruntled people are invested in a plan they helped to put in place 20 years or more ago doesn’t mean that the plan needn’t live up to scrutiny today. Let’s try something new to better the business climate in Fort Langley, like, say, another three-storey building, but one with LEED gold certification that in 20 years everyone will wonder what the fuss was over.

Christine Burdeniuk, Langley

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