Campbell River Arts Council executive director Ken Blackburn was hopeful back in the spring of 2016 that he would soon be welcoming an Artist-in-Residence into the Walter Morgan Shed after the completion of the renovations, but once the city saw how much work needed to be done, the project was put on hold. It will now go forward in 2018. Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror File Photo

Walter Morgan Shed to finally get its renovation

City sees heritage value in the property and will fund renewal project to the tune of $200,000

When the roof of Walter Morgan’s Shed was redone by Campbell River Rotary and the city dedicated some money to the rest of the renovation in 2016, Ken Blackburn was optimistic that it would soon become another integral part of Campbell River’s heritage and cultural offerings.

When the city got in there and looked at how much needed to be done, however, they put a halt on the project to re-evaluate things.

“It was in much worse shape than anyone thought,” Blackburn says. “Once we got it cleaned up and found out what we were dealing with, it was clear that money wasn’t going to go far enough.”

Located on the Sybil Andrews Cottage property in Willow Point, the shed has been in a dilapidated condition for many years, to the dismay of many who cherish its history.

But during financial plan deliberations for next year’s budget, city council decided to get to work fixing it.

“We have $62,988 to carry forward (on that project),” Mayor Andy Adams said during budget talks last week, “and we had the Rotary Club of Campbell River replace the roof on it already. What’s it going to take to get that studio done? Do we need to put money in there to finish it or do we need to look for grants? It’s just sitting there. What’s its status? Every year that goes by, it decays further and becomes more of an issue.

Ron Bowles, the city’s general manager of corporate services responded to Adams’ question by saying, essentially, that the money council had previously set aside to do the work simply wasn’t enough, so they didn’t use it.

“Last year council approved the rehabilitation, but when we got in there – as happens with many of these kinds of projects – we found out the damage was quite extensive. We’re struggling to find solutions to rebuild the facility as is,” Bowles said, pointing out that they estimate it will cost approximately $200,000 to do it properly, adding if council decides not to fund that work, “our plan is to start looking for grant opportunities to find that extra $140,000.”

Adams asked whether that $140,000 would be enough to actually get the work done, because, “it would be a real shame to have community money put into something that isn’t going to happen.”

Dave Morris, the city’s general manager of facilities and supply management, says he believes it is.

“We thought it might have to be condemned,” Morris says. “But the most recent information coming out of our consultant is that it can be salvaged and the existing exterior would be a facade. Basically, we’d be rebuilding the skeleton from within.”

“Having the Sybil Andrews and Walter Morgan studios down in Willow Point and the Haig-Brown house at the north end really book ends the cultural aspects of the history of Campbell River,” Adams said, adding that finishing the rehabilitation of the shed also ties in to what they are trying to do with the Frank James Park master plan.

And with that, council put the additional $140,000 into the pot to get the work done in 2018.

Which is a relief to Blackburn, who admits he was growing concerned.

“It’s great that they’ve decided to make it happen,” he says. “It’s really an integral part of our city’s heritage and culture and I’m excited that they agree.”

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