Funding restored for Friends of Fintry

$39,000 grant-in-aid reinstated by new regional district board

The Manor House at the historic Fintry Estate on the west side of Okanagan Lake. (File photo)

The Friends of Fintry saw its financial lifeline phased out over the last three years by The Regional District of Central Okanagan board.

But now, the board has reversed that course of action, adopting a proposal to reinstate funding for the non-profit group which oversees the management of the historic Fintry Estate site, including the Manor House and heritage barns.

The new board formed after the Oct. 15 civic election opted to reinstate the $39,000 grant-in-aid to Friends of Fintry, subject to final adoption of the 2023-24 operating budget as of March 31 and to be reviewed on a yearly basis.

Kathy Drew, president of the Friends of Fintry Provincial Parks Society, said their organization is still awaiting formal confirmation of the grant, the end result of the society making approaches to the new regional district board last fall and again in January regarding its funding issues.

“Now that the RDCO funding has ended, we will no longer have the services of a curator, and funding for a part-time business manager has also ended,” stated Michael Berry, vice president of Friends of Fintry, and Dan Bruce, Friends of Fintry curator, in a letter to the board last fall.

“Project funding, even when secured will not help, as it is always tied to specific outcomes, and not to ongoing operations.”

It was through the combined financial support of BC Parks, with an investment of $5 million, and the RDCO, $2 million, that the Fintry Estate grounds were purchased in 1995.

It was quickly recognized beyond the proposed development of a provincial campground on the site, the Fintry site also had a significant heritage component.

The Friends of Fintry was formed to develop the heritage significance because neither the regional district or BC Parks had the mandate or expertise to so.

That led to the grant-in-aid being put in place to support the Friends of Fintry heritage site management efforts beginning at $30,000 in 2001, raised to $35,000 in 2008 and increasing again to $39,000 in 2008.

Today, the site draws about 5,000 annually to visit the Manor House and grounds, which encompasses more than 2,100 hectares.

Along with the manor tours, Friends of Fintry stage three major fair events in May, July and September to celebrate the history behind the estate, built by James Cameron Dun-Waters starting in 1909 when he brought the delta property and renamed it Fintry after his home in Scotland.

The RDCO 20-year debt servicing commitment to the Fintry Estate acquisition was concluded in 2016.

As a result of a comprehensive review in 2019-20 of regional parks service, the board opted to end the funding relationship with Friends of Fintry to “better support the various non-profit ‘Friends of Regional Parks’ partner organizations that were linked directly with the RDCO regional parks service program as well as other board priorities in the RDCO regional parks system.”

In a letter to the RDCO board on Jan. 9, Drew said the ramifications of the RDCO grant cut left it doubtful Friends of Fintry would continue past this summer season.

“Due to the fact that Dan Bruce (our only employee) has worked for the Friends of Fintry for 20 years, supported by funding from RDCO, we were put in a very difficult position with BC Employment Standards having to let him go without just cause (as of January 31, 2023),” Drew stated in her letter.

“We are now applying for a student grant through Canada Summer Jobs and are doubtful if we will be successful as we will no longer have a qualified mentor as an employee to train the student(s) in museum workings (a requirement of the grant).

“BC Gaming grant applications will be released soon and because our expenses will no longer be at least 50 per cent of our overall budget (because we do not have Dan’s salary as an expense), once again we will probably not receive any funding.”

In an interview with Black Press Media, Drew said Friends of Fintry are further challenged by its volunteer board members mostly coming from Kelowna, Lake Country or Vernon, a geographical separation that also inhibits the availability of other volunteer supporters.

“So we all have to travel (to Fintry) to do anything,” she said, asserting the importance of a curator being on site.

Bruce Smith, spokesperson for the RDCO, confirmed the grant, like all expenditures planned for the next budget year, awaits confirmation with the final adoption of the 2023-24 budget as of March 31.

“The board approved the expenditure to Friends of Fintry be included in the budget at their Feb. 2 meeting as a grant-in-aid,” said Smith.

READ MORE: Funding falling short for Friends of Fintry

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