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Gold rush-era Likely steam shovel stays in downtown Quesnel

Artifact reassembled close to its previous location
The Likely steam shovel has been reassembled downtown Quesnel along the riverfront. (Karen Powell photo)

The Likely steam shovel has been reassembled downtown.

The huge industrial artifact had been in place at Lhtako Dene Park but was no longer a cultural or aesthetic fit, there.

After much dialogue and controversy, including a scuttled plan to return it to the community of Likely from whence it came, it was instead set up on the heritage promenade along the riverfront that also includes the wooden pedestrian bridge and the Cornish water wheel.

The steam shovel was in the process of disassembly at Lhtako Dene Park in May when work was halted and a special motion brought to the council table. After lengthy discussion, including numerous expressions of shame that they were reneging on a deal made in good faith with Likely, council voted 4-3 (mayor Ron Paull broke the tie) to keep the artifact.

After weeks of public discourse, including letters to the editor and clarifications made by past figures involved in the original placement of the steam shovel on display in Quesnel in the 1980s, the community of Likely sent its expression of disappointment but understanding.

In the May 31 edition of The Observer, those in Likely preparing to receive the huge historical item said, in part, “Likely is lucky that no taxpayer or donation dollars have been spent on the project, only time and effort by the working committee…The working group thought we were helping Quesnel out by taking the steam shovel back to the area it came from. Repatriation in fact means the process of returning a thing back to the place of origin. Unfortunately, rumours happen, people get confused and misinformation is circulated. The working group - Lisa Kraus, Kathy MacBurney, Carole Whitmer and Maureen LeBourdais - are happy that Quesnel has found an alternate location within the Quesnel area.”

After sitting in storage at the contractor’s compound since June, it is now in that new place. Mayor Paull suggested in spring that part of the value of the downtown Quesnel display could be information on the community of Likely to perhaps incite tourism or local visitation to the rural neighbouring community. A companion steam shovel is on display there.

READ MORE: Steam shovel can be Likely calling card in Quesnel

READ MORE: Steam shovel came to Quesnel above board - Ex-mayor Pearce refutes rumours

Frank Peebles

About the Author: Frank Peebles

I started my career with Black Press Media fresh out of BCIT in 1994, as part of the startup of the Prince George Free Press, then editor of the Lakes District News.
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