Tumbler Ridge residents say yes to funding dinosaur museum — with caveat

Tumbler Ridge residents were given a survey during the municipal election on whether they wanted to fund the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation.

Museum's funding has been in limbo since council voted against awarding funding earlier this year

The Peace River Palaeontology Research Centre and museum houses the largest dinosaur fossil collection in British Columbia. (Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation)

The residents of Tumbler Ridge have said yes to funding its embattled dinosaur museum — as long as it makes a few changes. 

The region surrounding Tumbler Ridge is one of the richest in the world in terms of dinosaur fossil discoveries. The museum's collection includes an exceptionally rare Tyrannosaur trackway — groups of footprints — and the most complete skeleton ever found in the province.

As part of the community's municipal ballot, residents were given a survey about the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation. The district has donated, on average, $200,000 a year to the foundation since 2005, but this year, council voted against the funding request.

The future of the museum was in serious doubt. It laid off staff and closed in late March, before temporarily re-opening in the summer after some successful fundraising efforts. 

In the survey — which is not a binding referendum — residents were given three choices:

  • Continue to fund the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation only if certain services and displays are increased, namely those related to children and family and tourism.
  • Continue to fund the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation with current services and displays.
  • Not fund the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation. 

Keith Bertrand, the mayor-elect of Tumbler Ridge, said 46 per cent of residents voted for funding the museum with added attractions and more child, tourism and family related services.

"This was a good indication from the residents of Tumbler Ridge that they do want to support the museum and it gives us — the new council — more direction on where we should go as far as funding goes for the museum," Bertrand said.

Since the discovery of dinosaur tracks in a local creek in 2000, paleontologists and amateur fossil hunters have found hundreds of bones and footprints belonging to dinosaurs that once roamed what is now British Columbia. (CBC Still Standing)

Seeking return visitors

Betrand said his council will want to see the museum feature programs and events that will prompt visitors to return.

"I think a lot of problems with museums is once you go once, you've been there, done that," he said. "We want to try and find ways where there will be more highlights to bring more people back."

Charissa Tonnesen, president of the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation, said she was very pleased with the results of the ballot — and signalled a willingness to make changes.

"The way I see it is the majority of people supported funding the museum, one way or the other," Tonnesen said. 

"I've never been opposed to there being conditions on our funding. I would like for the museum board to have some say to how the museum is run, but our funders should also be able to say they want certain things."

As for what exactly the museum will do to make it more attractive to families, Tonnesen said the museum was still working out the details.

"I can't talk too much about it, but I do think we're going to be able to address that adequately in the next year," she said.

With files from Daybreak North