Merritt, British Columbia
|City of Merritt|
|Motto: "Flourish Under The Sun"|
|Regional District||Thompson Nicola|
|Incorporated||1 April 1911 (city)|
|• Mayor||Susan Roline|
|• City Council|
|• MP||Dan Albas|
|• MLA (Prov.)||Jackie Tegart|
|• City||24.9 km2 (9.6 sq mi)|
|Elevation||605 m (1,985 ft)|
|• Density||290/km2 (740/sq mi)|
|Time zone||PST (UTC−8)|
|• Summer (DST)||PDT (UTC−7)|
|Website||City of Merritt|
Merritt is a city in the Nicola Valley of the south-central Interior of British Columbia, Canada. Situated at the confluence of the Nicola and Coldwater rivers, it is the first major community encountered after travelling along Phase One of the Coquihalla Highway and acts as the gateway to all other major highways to the B.C. Interior. The city developed in 1893 when part of the ranches owned by William Voght, Jesus Garcia, and John Charters was surveyed for a town site.
Once known as Forksdale, the community adopted its current name in 1906 in honour of mining engineer and railway promoter William Hamilton Merritt III. The 24 square kilometres (9.3 sq mi) city limits consists of the community, a number of civic parks, historical sites, an aquatic centre, a local arena, a public library (which is a branch of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District Library System) and a civic centre. Merritt has dozens of bronzed hand prints of country music stars that have been in the city for the annual Merritt Mountain Music Festival displayed throughout town. Merritt is also home to a local radio station, a weekly newspaper and the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology campus. Nearby, there are four provincial parks, numerous lakes, and several recreational trails. Merritt is nicknamed as "Country Music Capital of Canada" for its wealth of country music attractions, activities, and events.
Highway 5, and Highway 97C all intersect at Merritt with Highway 97C East connecting the city to Kelowna and Penticton, Highway 97C Northwest to Logan Lake, Highway 8 to Spences Bridge and Lillooet, Highway 5A South to Princeton, Highway 5A North to Kamloops, Highway 5 South to Hope, and Highway 5 North to Kamloops. Merritt's economy is dominated by the primary industries of forestry, tourism, and service. A member city of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, it is represented in provincial politics by the British Columbia Liberal Party and in federal politics by the Conservative Party of Canada.
For years, the Merritt area was a gathering place for local settlers and First Nations groups, as the area was a focus of transportation routes used by early pioneers. The grasslands eventually drew the attention of settlers interested in ranching, and the first ranches were staked in the mid-19th century.
In the 1880s three ranches located at the confluence of the Nicola and Coldwater Rivers, owned by William Voght, Jesus Garcia, and the John Charters Estate, became the focus of a farming community knows as "The Forks". With the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway through British Columbia in 1885, interest increased in the coal deposits south of The Forks.
Part of the ranches owned by Voght, Garcia and Charters was surveyed in 1893 for the townsite of Forksdale, but the name did not catch on with locals. Instead, the name was changed in 1906 to honour William Hamilton Merritt III, a mining engineer and railway promoter. By 1907, the coal mines were in operation and with the completion of the railway from Spences Bridge, government and other offices starting moving from Nicola west to establish Merritt as the major settlement in the Nicola Valley.
Armstrong's Store moved from Lower Nicola to Nicola Avenue in Merritt in the spring of 1907. G.B. Armstrong became Merritt's first postmaster at this location in 1908. In 1910, Armstrong's Department Store moved to 2025 Quilchena Avenue. In 1909, the Bank of Montreal moved from the settlement of Nicola to Merritt. A.E. Howse moved his department store to the west end of Nicola Avenue. The Nicola Herald, founded at Nicola Lake in 1905, moved from Nicola to Merritt in 1909 and the name changed to the Merritt Herald and Nicola Valley Advocate. Other the industries developed in the Valley, including ranching, copper mining, and forestry, and as a result, new business buildings were constructed.
The move toward incorporation began in 1910 and culminated on April 1, 1911 when Merritt was granted its city charter. The first Merritt City Hall was built in 1912. The top floor was police headquarters, the second for administration offices, and the bottom for the jail. The building included a tower that housed a whistle to summon the volunteer fire fighters.
Merritt dedicated the names of its streets and avenues to early settlers. Among the names honoured were Charters, Chapman, Cleasby, Garcia, Voght, Coutlee, Nicola, Granite, and Quilchena.
As the town grew, it featured a drug store, a general store, a brewery and a jewelry store. The first electrical power service by the city was provided in February 1913.
Merritt and the Nicola Valley experienced prosperity until the passage of restrictive trade legislation in the United States in 1930. Because the city had financially backed one of the major sawmills, the loss of lumber markets caused the city to go into receivership from 1933 to 1952.
The first immigrants, primarily Sikh, from the Punjab region of India arrived in Merritt in the 1950s, but a large influx arrived in the late 1960s and early 1970s to work in the booming Forestry sector of the time and adding to the cultural mosaic of Merritt. Known as Indo-Canadians, they continue to play a crucial part in the economy—Aspen Planers Ltd., a major employer in the city, and many other businesses, restaurants and hotels in Merritt are owned by members of this cultural group.
Merritt is composed of five distinct residential areas: Bench, Collettville, Central, Diamondvale, and Lower Nicola. The Bench is a residential mountain bench, hence the name, sited on the northwest side of the valley. Collettville, on the southwest edge of the community south of the Coldwater River, is the newest addition to Merritt, joining the municipality in 1995. Central is situated at the south of the city centre. Diamond Vale is in the heart of the valley, and is the most populated. Lower Nicola is about ten kilometres outside of the city of Merritt, but most residents are serviced by and work in the city. Each area is served by an elementary school: Bench Elementary, Collettville Elementary (French Immersion), Central Elementary, Diamond Vale Elementary, and finally Nicola Canford Elementary. Also, a high school, Merritt Secondary School, that services the area. The main office for School District 58 Nicola-Similkameen, which operates the schools in the area, is also located in Merritt. The town is also served by the Nicola Valley Museum and Archives.
Commerce and industry
Today, ranching, farming, forestry, transportation and tourism are the primary industries. Merritt is the nearest large community to the Douglas Lake Cattle Company, Canada's largest working cattle ranch.
Merritt was once host to an annual Merritt Mountain Music Festival that is estimated to have drawn as many as 148,000 people at its peak in the summer of 2005. The Mountain Music Festival, combined with the development of the Merritt Walk of Stars - a display of bronzed handprints of Mountainfest artists placed around the community - and other tourism development activities have been used to solidify the city's branding as the Country Music Capital of Canada.
A newer feature in Merritt is the Pacific Forest Rally, an off-road rally conducted as part of the Canadian Rally Championship series every October. The annual Thunderbird Rally often begins and ends in Merritt.
Two of Merritt's notable employers are Tom's and Merritt Towing and Mario's Towing. They both serve the surrounding region and employ a number of Merritt residents.
Merritt on film
Merritt provided the backdrop for the Academy Award-nominated movie The Sweet Hereafter. The debut episode of Smallville was partly filmed on location in Merritt. Jack Nicholson's The Pledge and the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man were also filmed partly in the area.
The Merritt Mountain Music Festival was an outdoor music festival in Merritt, British Columbia, Canada. In 2005 the festival hosted a record breaking attendance of approximately 148,000 people throughout the 6 day event. Over the years it has hosted country stars such as Kenny Chesney, Reba McEntire and Wynonna Judd. Since cancelling the festival in the summer of 2012, The Merritt Mountain Music Festival is no longer in operation.
Starting on the BC Day weekend in 2013 (Friday, August 2 to Monday, August 5, 2013), Bass Coast Music Festival will be making Merritt, BC its new home (after taking place in Squamish, BC its first four years). Bass Coast features a wide variety of music "from daytime soul and reggae jams, to live experimental electronic music, house and techno".
Merritt is home to the longest continuously run franchise in the British Columbia Hockey League, the Merritt Centennials. The Cents moved to the Nicola Valley from White Rock midway through the 1973-74 season. The Centennials play all home games at the city-run Nicola Valley Memorial Arena and their season runs from early September through early March.
Merritt is also home to the Nicola Valley Thunder minor lacrosse club.
Merritt and the Nicola Valley features two golf courses, the Merritt Golf and Country Club in downtown Merritt and the Quilchena on the Lake Golf Course, located 15 minutes east of the city at historic Quilchena.
Merritt features a skateboard park, bike park, and numerous walking trails.
There is also a local slo-pitch softball league and the Merritt Otters swim club, which makes its home at the Nicola Valley Aquatic Centre.
|Population in 2011||7,113|
|Population in 2006||6,998|
|2006 to 2011 population change (%)||1.6|
|Total private dwellings||3,115|
|Population density per square kilometer||286.6|
|Land area (square km)||24.82|
|Median age of the population||43.9|
|% of the population aged 15 and over||82.7|
|Population Under 25||2,590|
|% of Population Under 25||36%|
|Climate data for Merritt|
|Record high °C (°F)||14
|Average high °C (°F)||−0.3
|Average low °C (°F)||−8.6
|Record low °C (°F)||−40
|Precipitation mm (inches)||37.2
|Source: Environment Canada|
|Lower Nicola||Nicola Lake|
- Population and dwelling counts, for Canada, provinces and territories, and population centres, 2011 and 2006 censuses: British Columbia. Statistics Canada. Retrieved April 19, 2013.
- Nicola Valley Museum Archives Association, ed. (1998). Merritt & The Nicola Valley: An Illustrated History. Merritt, BC: Sonotek Publishing. pp. 32–37. ISBN 0-929069-11-0
- SFU Archives (ed.). http://aabc.bc.ca/access/aabc/archbc/display/SFU-143 Missing or empty
- The Canadian Press (2008-03-18). "Country Music Hall of Fame moves to B.C". TheStar.com. Retrieved 2008-03-19.
- "Filming Locations for The Sweet Hereafter". The Internet Movie Database (IMDB). Retrieved 2008-11-15.
- Population 1981/1986
- http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/as-sa/fogs-spg/Facts-csd-eng.cfm?LANG=Eng&GK=CSD&GC=5933006 http://www.merritt.ca/2011-annual-report, http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/as-sa/fogs-spg/Facts-csd-eng.cfm?LANG=Eng&GK=CSD&GC=5933006. Missing or empty
- Environment Canada—Canadian Climate Normals 1971–2000, accessed 10 July 2009
- City of Merritt
- Merritt & District Chamber of Commerce
- Merritt Walk of Stars
- Nicola Valley Museum & Archives
- Merritt Herald
- Merritt's 100th Anniversary