The District of Houston is setting aside $6,000 for a Steelhead Park site plan, and working with the Multicultural Society of Houston (MHS) to restore the old train station in the park.
The plan for Steelhead Park will consider truck parking, the farmers market, mobile vending, connections to downtown, picnic areas, museum amenities, village enhancements and the train station.
Talking to council about partnering with the MHS to restore the old train station, Interim Community Planner John Guenther said he thought it was a great idea.
“I think it’s a tremendous asset to the community. It’s got liability and it’s a tough building to work with, but the idea to keep the trains stopping in town is a great thing to feed off. Tie that in with development over the longer term and connecting the park to the downtown, it’s really important,” Guenther said.
“[It sounds like a] great opportunity to showcase the town and put in a decent train stop so that it will become more of a centre,” said Mayor Bill Holmberg.
Asked where the money will come from, Guenther said it will be grants pursued by the MHS and the District is making no long-term financial commitment.
William Wallace, Houston Director of Finance said he supported the project.
“At this juncture, things have to either have a direct line to improvements that result in tax revenues, or they’re a part of a bigger package that you could connect to other improvements that would result in tax revenues,” Wallace said, adding that he considers this project as part of the Highway 16 project.
“I think it’s very positive… as part of [the highway project], this needs to be supported,” he said.
Council agreed to develop the park plan and support the MHS in efforts to restore the train station.
The MHS formed five years ago with the purpose of restoring the old train station building to look like an old fashioned railway station and to make it useable.
Glen Farrell, Director and originator of the MHS, said they want to put a pony wall around the building, put on a peaked roof, and make a stage on the south side of the building for shows and events.
They want to put a kitchen and a canteen with sliding glass windows in the basement, as well as clean up the bathrooms and the rooms on the main floor so groups can use them for meetings.
Farrell says lots of groups are interested in using the building and stage once it’s fixed up, including some from the East Indian community and the First Nations community, as well as the East Coast Association and Houston Search and Rescue.
Farrell says it all started because he got tired of looking at that old building and wanted to do something about it.
“I thought, ‘Aw, there’s got to be a use for this building. It’s terrible that it’s just going to waste here,'” he said, describing his thoughts after he went inside the station to board up windows for the District of Houston.
Farrell says he formed a society with other interested people and they have slowly been moving the project forward, negotiating with CN and Via Rail.
He says it took two years for CN and Via Rail to decide about ownership, as Via Rail owns the station, and CN owns the lot.
Via Rail wants to sell the station to the MHS for $1, and CN has agreed to a low-priced lease, but Farrell says they lack needed funds for the costly liability and the CN lease.
“Our problem is we don’t know much about going after grants,” Farrell said, adding that they also need a new Director for the society.
Farrell says he’s been meeting with several people, including Tanya Amonson, Manager of the Houston Bulkley Valley Credit Union and District of Houston planner Guenther, to work on ways to begin pursuing money for the project.
Anyone interested in donating or getting involved in the MHS is asked to contact Glen at 845-3406 or firstname.lastname@example.org.