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Merriwake to take shelter thanks to Heritage BC grant

By Contributor
March 3rd, 2021

An important piece of Japanese-Canadian history will be preserved in the Slocan Valley thanks to a $500,000 grant from Heritage BC.

The funds will support construction of the Merriwake Interpretive Centre at Slocan. The building will shelter the Merriwake, a 31-foot fishing boat believed to be the last of its kind in Canada.

“This injection of funds will allow us not only to showcase the restored vessel, but to tell part of the larger story of the Japanese-Canadian internment,” says Slocan Valley Historical Society vice-president Anitra Winje. “We are ecstatic to receive this support.”

The Merriwake was built in Prince Rupert in 1929 by master boat builder Isamu Matsumoto and was one of hundreds of fishing boats seized by the BC Security Commission during the Second World War.

The Merriwake changed hands several times before being brought to Kaslo in the 1990s. The historical society acquired it from Ted Fitzgerald in 2019 at the urging of noted author Joy Kogawa and plans to restore it as a dryland exhibit along the Slocan Valley Heritage Rail Trail.

Shipwright Eric Chevalier of Copper Nail Boat Shop in Bonnington has nearly completed work on the boat and the project’s focus is now shifting to construction of the shelter.

Award-winning architect Gene Kinoshita, whose family was interned in Slocan, has designed the shelter plans and the next step is to put out a request for proposals. The society hopes to break ground this year.

The funding comes from the Unique Heritage Infrastructure stream of the Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program. The historical society gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

Photo Caption: Award-winning architect Gene Kinoshita has prepared plans for the Merriwake Interpretive Centre, to be built along the Slocan Valley Heritage Rail Trail.

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