Top: Old Fire Hall before renovations were completed. Courtesy creditunionsarehelpinghere.com. Bottom: Old Fire Hall after renovations were completed. Photo by Angus Schroff. Top to bottom: Faye MacPherson with her hand knit items. Darlene Driediger with an array of spices. Ana Hohertz with her fresh baked goodies.

Food for thought at the old fire hall

A town icon brought to new life in aid of local producers

Angus Schroff

Arrow Lakes News

In the Kootenays, not much goes to waste. Garbage is recycled, automobiles are held on to long after their cup holders become undersized for today’s gigantic sodas. The train of thought goes that if something’s broken, fix it, and if something’s not being used for what it was intended, use it for something else.

Take the old Nakusp Fire hall, for example. In 2011, the building was put up for sale, having been made obsolete by the newly-constructed Emergency Services building. Though it was a piece of community history, its price — in the $300,000 area — made it seem unlikely that anyone would swoop in and give it a new lease on life.

Enter the Old Fire hall Collective Society. The group began in 2009, looking for ways to boost the local agricultural economy. With the fire hall, it seemed they’d found their avenue — it could provide an indoor, year-round venue for the sale of local produce. Undaunted by the task, the group set about proposing their plan to the village council. Matters progressed, and in 2014, they were granted a lease. Soon after, a contract was signed with the British Columbia Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, who provided four workers and $130,000 through their Job Creation Partnership program. Fast-forward to present day, and the work is done; the fire hall itself has been completely renovated, inside and out.

On Sept. 4, residents gathered to celebrate the fire hall’s grand re-opening. It was a preview of what’s to come for the building, featuring local people and their wares. Ana Hohertz presided over a table of baked goods, Darlene Driediger had spices, and Faye Macpherson brought the triple-threat of knitting, canned goods, and pies.

The indoor location wasn’t terribly necessary on such a bright, sunny day, but you can bet it will be useful in case of any of those sudden Kootenay weather changes. And with winter coming up, well, nobody likes snow in their pie.

Rosemary Hughes, one of the chief organizers and driving forces behind the Old Fire hall Collective, was pleased with the turnout. Hughes isn’t stopping yet, though; she and the rest of the society have high hopes for the fire hall’s future. Their mission for a year-round farmer’s market is,“To develop a system of farming that is economically viable, socially acceptable and environmentally sound. To advance local food production, encourage small scale farmers and create employment while sharing knowledge and resources; and using only healthy, sustainable agricultural practices,” says Hughes.

Further plans for the building include a community kitchen, which CBT funded in August, and an agricultural tool “library” that farmers can borrow from and contribute to.

When asked for a picture in front of the refurbished hall, Hughes  gracefully declined.

“That wouldn’t be fair, because it isn’t just about me. It’s everybody that participated. Without their contributions, this never would’ve happened.”