The legacy of gold rush pioneers can still be seen in the historic town of Barkerville. As a tribute to these beginnings, the ongoing interest in this historic landmark, and the crucial role Barkerville played in the building of our province and in B.C.'s confederation with Canada, the recognition of Barkerville as a UNESCO World Heritage Site would truly be golden.
Barkerville arose from the lives of early pioneers who came from all regions of the world in a mad scramble to find gold. Billy Barker's claim led to the Cariboo Gold Rush, and was a catalyst for the construction of the Cariboo Wagon Road, which paved the way for thriving businesses and a bustling frontier life. From this, Barkerville grew to become one of the world's greatest gold rush towns, and has been acclaimed as a provincial and national heritage site.
Despite its ambitious and rapid comeback from a fire that destroyed the town in 1868, by the end of the century, Barkerville's population declined and sadly, the community nearly became a ghost town. In 1957, the government of B.C. made the decision to restore Barkerville as a tourist attraction to commemorate the province's centennial in 1958.
Today, Barkerville Historic Town is the largest historic site in Western Canada. It is considered by many as a "must see" attraction for both tourists and locals. Every year, thousands of visitors worldwide come to this unique place for the opportunity to take a step back in time. In Barkerville, there are more than 100 historic wooden buildings and structures, including several general stores, hotels, a saloon, a theatre, a barber shop, a blacksmith shop, an authentic Cornish waterwheel and a 19th century dentist's office. Altogether, Barkerville has more than 200,000 objects of historical significance.
Barkerville stands as one of the great monuments to the places, persons and events that have shaped British Columbia and Canada's history. It is a treasured provincial heritage site that has long been commemorated as a National Historic Site of Canada, along with two other locations within Barkerville: the Cariboo Wagon Road, and the Chee Kung Tong building. It was the site of the first celebrations of "Dominion Day," now known as "Canada Day," on July 1.
World Heritage Site status rightly acknowledges a landmark's historic and cultural significance. The recognition of Barkerville as a World Heritage Site would truly acknowledge its prominence as one of the world's foremost historic, gold rush towns, and its role in the entry of British Columbia to Canada.
As B.C.'s minister of tourism, culture and the arts, I fully support the management of Barkerville Heritage Trust's drive to have Barkerville proclaimed as a World Heritage Site.