MONKMAN – THE MAN, THE PASS AND THE PARK
Press Release
For Immediate Release
Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation
Box 1348 Tumbler Ridge, BC V0C 2W0
Contact: Carolyn Golightly, President
cgolightly@nlc.bc.ca
February 22, 2004

The Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation (TRMF) shone the spotlight on local history in a big way on February 18 when they hosted an evening combining the epic history of the 1930s Monkman Pass Highway project with the grandeur of present-day Monkman Provincial Park.

The public library was filled to capacity with an audience of 130 as five guest speakers brought a variety of perspectives to the topic. Charles Helm, Vice President of TRMF, presented a concise history of Alex Monkman and the heroic individuals who helped him blaze a trail from Beaverlodge, through the Rockies to near Prince George, in 1937-39, in an effort to find a viable export route for the grain of the Peace River area farmers. Only the outbreak of World War II stopped them. He followed up with a slideshow of the more distinctive and magnificent features along the route, noting the tourism potential of these sites.

Ben Foster followed with a slideshow of the projects he supervises for the Monkman Homestead Preservation Society, involving the restoration of the old Monkman homestead and barn near Lake Saskatoon. Monkman was the very first settler in the Grande Prairie region in 1900.

Next, Rob Bressette and Scott Fraser of BC Parks described the unappreciated gem that is Monkman Provincial Park, and shared their short-term and long-term plans for the park. One of these is the possible creation of a link between Monkman Park and Wapiti Lake Park, with a multi-day hiking trail.

During a refreshment break, the audience viewed numerous historical items on display, after which they heard a firsthand recollection of a Monkman experience by Janet Hartford. Speaking for over half an hour without a note, Janet - who is considered the “matriarch” of Tumbler Ridge - described her glorious teenage days of 1939, spent at Kinuseo Falls and Monkman Lake. In appreciation of the invaluable contributions Janet and her husband George have made to the history of Tumbler Ridge and in forming its museum, they were presented with a plaque awarding them the TRMF’s first honorary lifetime membership.

Also in attendance were Dale Chambers and Joan Jones of the Beaverlodge area whose father, Ted Chambers, was one of the original 1937 trailblazers. They have generously allowed his treasured photo album to be included in a permanent Monkman exhibit in the Community Centre, alongside the other museum displays.

The evening had a spin-off effect, spurring initiatives like detailed research on the Monkman Highway and the possible creation of a motor tour to the accessible sections, and the improvement of the hiking trail to Monkman Lake this summer. In addition, the creation of a side trail to the “Cascades” is planned; this unique series of eight consecutive waterfalls on Monkman Creek is considered to be one of North America’s finest and least appreciated natural wonders. Thanks to the efforts of the WNMS, four of the most impressive of these waterfalls have officially been named for members of the Trailblazer crew: Chambers, McGinnis, Monkman and Brooks Falls, respectively.

The Museum Foundation hopes to add to its exhibits a working replica of a 1927 Model T Ford - the vehicle that was coaxed and cajoled over the Pass in 1938 - and its newest director, Jack McNeil, has accepted the project.

The TRMF is continuing its Wednesday evening lecture series with Ross Peck’s presentation on the first settlers in the Tumbler Ridge area in 1914. This event starts at 7 pm, March 17 in the public library. Admission and refreshments are free, however, the library will gratefully accept donations toward a new projector.

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