World heritage status for Steveston is years away

Steveston would join heritage ranks that include the Great Wall of China and Lunenburg, Nova Scotia if a bid to add the fishing village to UNESCO’s World Heritage List succeeds. -
Steveston would join heritage ranks that include the Great Wall of China and Lunenburg, Nova Scotia if a bid to add the fishing village to UNESCO’s World Heritage List succeeds.
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Convincing a United Nations organization to add Steveston Village to an exclusive list of heritage sites around the world would take years and come with a heavy price tag, according to a new report.

“Preparing a nomination for UNESCO world heritage designation is a lengthy and costly process,” said Jane Fernyhough, in a report to council’s planning committee today.

The World Heritage List, maintained by a United Nations agency known as UNESCO, or United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, recognizes over 900 places around the world for cultural or natural significance.

City officials began probing Steveston Village as a candidate earlier this year.

Fernyhough, Richmond’s director of arts, culture and heritage services, is suggesting council spend $20,000 to make the first step—apply for National Historic Site designation. If Ottawa approves, Steveston Village must then be added to Canada’s tentative list of sites seeking the more prestigious world designation.

Seven sites are already in that queue, and UNESCO will only consider one per year from Canada. That, along with at least two years of work in preparing a nomination, means the road to the world heritage designation is a long one.

“Pimachiowin Aki is one example in Canada that took five years, boxes of nomination documentation and several million dollars and has been sent back for further research,” noted Fernyhough.

Officials behind the Pimachiowin Aki bid—involving 33,400 square kilometers of boreal forest that straddles the Manitoba-Ontario border—are now making a second attempt at winning favour from UNESCO, but a decision may not come until 2016.

Last year’s Canadian winner of a World Heritage Site designation was the tiny community of Red Bay in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Red Bay Basque Whaling Station earned the honour, having had a National Historic Site designation since 2000. Canada named the site to its list of UNESCO candidates in 2004, and work on the nomination formally began four years later, according to reports.

More locally, Vancouver launched a bid for the World Heritage Site status in 2008 on behalf of Chinatown. It won National Historic Site honours in 2011, but the site is not yet on Canada’s tentative list, according to a staff report.

There are two National Historic Site designations in Steveston already: Britannia Shipyards, designated in 1991, and the Gulf of Georgia Cannery, recognized in 1976.

Earlier this year in the legislature, Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap trumpeted the benefits of the world designation for Steveston Village.

Said Yap: “UNESCO designation would ensure preservation of the whole of Steveston and firmly place it on the tourism map.”

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