Letter: Fintry Queen part of our heritage

In heritage it is the community who determine if something has heritage value.

To the editor

Re: The Fintry Queen

As the executive director of the Central Okanagan Heritage Society (COHS), and past chair, and current board member of Heritage BC, my life is deeply impacted by all things heritage.

In December I had the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with Andy Schwab, the current owner of the Fintry Queen. I found Andy to be a sincere and caring man. He is deeply committed to the Fintry Queen, and to its future. He has experience running the boat, and has worked tirelessly over the past several years, working through a myriad of issues.

The business plan that I saw, showed a boat operating as a tourist attraction, taking locals and tourists alike up and down our beautiful lake. It is an inexpensive, environmentally-sensitive and family-friendly way to enjoy what Okanagan Lake has to offer.  His tenacity is the reason why we still have a shot at having the Fintry Queen back as a contributing member of our community.

An article in the Daily Courier, Jan. 19, 2016, reads that Kelowna’s Mayor Colin Basran wants to let citizens know the old boat is not a heritage asset. “It’s a former car ferry converted to a paddle-wheeler,” said the mayor. “I don’t see the value in it.”

Water transportation played a significant role in the history of the Okanagan Valley. The national theme for Heritage Week 2014 was Heritage Afloat. A local committee made up of over a dozen groups celebrated the history of the lake and its impact on our communities.

The Fintry Queen has been visible and working in our community for a good portion of the last 65 years. In heritage it is the community who determine if something has heritage value.

COHS has had the opportunity to talk to many other heritage groups from up and down the valley, local citizens and our own members, who feel strongly that the Fintry Queen has indeed got “heritage value.”

When a historic building or structure has a new function, we call it adaptive re-use. We have many examples of adaptive re-use in all of the Central Okanagan communities. Examples would include the Laurel Packing House which now is a banquet and meeting space; portions of Kelowna’s Memorial Arena used as the Military Museum; churches now being used as museums or meeting space; and the Westbank Museum is the former RCMP station in West Kelowna.

The fact that the Fintry Queen was a car ferry that was converted to a passenger paddle-wheeler does not diminish its value, but adds another layer to its history.

Kelowna city council may have other reasons for not working with Andy Schwab and his plans for the Fintry Queen, but saying that the boat has “no heritage value” is only [the mayor’s] opinion.

For those who want to hear more about plans for the Fintry Queen, Andy Schwab will be speaking at the Kelowna downtown library, Feb. 17 during this year’s heritage week.

Watch local media – for further details.

Janice Henry, executive director,

Central Okanagan Heritage Society