Details emerge on Cokato Red Barn construction

The iconic barn will be taken down and rebuilt to correct an issue related to lot boundaries

A sketch of the new Cokato Red Barn sent to the Free Press by LWE Builders.

New details have emerged about the construction taking place at the site of Cokato’s iconic Red Barn.

The work is being carried out by Fernie construction company, LWE Builders.

According to Steve Whelan, the owner of LWE Builders, the barn is not being replaced.

“We’re basically recreating the existing barn,” Whelan said.

Currently, the barn itself is sitting on two different lots.

“Back when [the barn] was built, they didn’t really have any way of knowing where the lots started or ended so they just eyeballed it,” Whelan said. “Now we know it’s in the wrong spot so we’ve got to bring it over.”

Most of the barn is on the lot that belongs to the barn’s owner. However, about one foot of the structure sits on the neighbouring lot.

To correct the issue, the barn is being taken down and built 26 feet over so that the structure’s edge is 25 feet away from the end of the lot.

The new construction will use the original barn’s walls but will feature new foundations and a new roof.

In Whelan’s words, the rest of the project involves “taking the rest of the barn down, storing the components, redoing the foundation, putting the old walls back in, and then installing a new roof.”

The project is expected to cost “a significant amount of money” and is expected to take about two years due to the engineering involved and ecological concerns.

Since going out of operation, the barn has turned into a home for bats.

It was imperative that the old roof be taken off during the winter so that the bats would not return to the barn after hibernation.

With input from Kootenay Community Bat Project and the Wildlife Conservation Society of Canada’s bat conservation program, the builders have been developing a “bat barn” so the animals can have a place to go when they return.

The bat sanctuary will use materials from the original barn which will attract them back to the location.

In addition to the steps towards ecological preservation that the property owners are making, Whelan believes they are also doing right by the community with the project.

“What the clients are doing here is unbelievable for the community,” he said.

The owners currently spend “a few months a year” in Fernie during the summers but are planning on moving to the town full-time once the project is complete.

By occupying the barn, they will be putting it back into use and “preserving it for potentially another hundred years,” Whelan said.

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