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Preserving the past for the future at Pioneer Park

The business and purpose of the Ferndale Heritage Society is to educate the community on the history of Whatcom County, promote Pioneer Park and tourism in Ferndale, WA, and bring together those people interested in preserving history and maintaining the log cabins and collections at Pioneer Park.

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2020 - A Year Without What the Heritage Society Does Best

Well it was a year that most of us will remember as we try and forgot all the new experiences, or restrictions that came into play due to the Pandemic Covid.  January started off normal, highway litter pickup happened in January under Dick Mill’s coordination, but that was the only one that happened for the year. In February things were slowing down, and the Heritage Society was being made aware of life as we knew it might be changing. And yes, it did. March came and no General membership meeting was held. Julie Aamot, education program director made the call to cancel our springtime program for the many local students who looked forward to our hands-on activities.

By April no board meeting, no general meeting and we figured our annual fund-raising plant sale would not get the city okay and we cancelled.  We did get in on the Sandy Point Community plant exchange and made $335. This money typically goes to buying plants and paying someone to water weekly at the park. Well, we did not need the watering or plants as the city, following state directives, closed Pioneer Park to the public.  Without key access, none of the society members could access the park to do any kind of flower bed maintenance and the cabins and flower beds looked pretty sad.

May came and no park opening so no park tour guides were needed. This was very disappointing as these tour guides are at the park six days a week to greet visitors and locals alike. Stopping at the Parker house store for an afternoon ice cream was a treat.

Once access to the cabins was semi achieved, Robert Lyles and Ron Wilson picked up where our beloved Chief Knapp had left off doing upgrades to the Rogers (Veterans) Museum.  And across the yard, Dick Mills, James Burgress, Clara and Zach Wopat started with the total renovation of the Lopas House.  Ben Brown donated his time to support the project with his skills in welding and steel works. Instead of a “print shop” cabin where the artifacts could be viewed from a distance, displays were built, artifacts relocated and moved into printing sequence.  This hard-working group is just finishing their labor of love in November. New track lighting is in the works and will be donated by Ferndale Ace Hardware.

Our Heritage Board met in June, outside, seated in chairs six feet apart. It was different but we met and accomplished what we needed to.  The annual Old Settlers Picnic that happens the last week in July, of course was cancelled also.

The board got a few of our ladies to make phone calls to our members. We were missing our monthly meetings. These are short on meeting and long on social time. So nice to just check in.

Our big, planned expenditure for 2020 was to finish the chinking on the Foster and Shields houses, and start the chinking process on the Lopas and Rogers houses.  Communication, park access and the season ending didn’t allow for anything to be done this year. Cabins continue to have air spaces and the finding contractors with this know-how will be a high priority for 2021.

It was no surprise that the Olde Fashioned Christmas, the first week in December would be cancelled.  This event packs visitors young and old into our 12 fully decorated cabins for hands on crafts. The smell of baking apples and cookies draw back our favorite memories of Christmas’s in past years. Period costumed volunteers and our guests alike start off their holiday season feeling blessed.

We were sad with our annual events being cancelled, but wait there’s a shining star in the works. Tom and Sue Brand wanting to give back to our community, especially this year, got the society geared up and came up with the idea to decorate the park in Christmas lights in December. We’ll invite our guests to socially distance while strolling the ADA compliant concrete sidewalk that circles the “Pioneer Village”.  Lighted Christmas Stroll Through Pioneer Village was approved by the city and will be a free admission event. We want our guests and our Heritage Society members to get a heartfelt sense of Christmas joy while volunteering or visiting the village during this experience.

Working with the city through a CARES Program grant, some of the expenses of this “virus restricted time” will help cover the extra costs incurred.

Looking forward to a safe, healthy and “let’s get back to normal” kind of year in 2021.  Our Heritage Society members are some of the best, hard working people in our community. We all have a passion to preserve our pioneer history and share the experience with others. We have a treasure here at Pioneer Park, a village of log cabins like no other.  We’re always seeking new members who are interested in our mission, and just want to be a part of a group that makes a difference in our community.

Linda Harkleroad, V.P. and Publicity