Merritt, British Columbia

Merritt, British Columbia
City of Merritt
Merritt as seen from a hillside Northwest of the city


Coat of arms
Motto: "Flourish Under The Sun"
Coordinates: 50°06′46″N 120°47′23″W / 50.11278°N 120.78972°W / 50.11278; -120.78972
Country  Canada
Province  British Columbia
Region Nicola
Regional District Thompson Nicola
Settled 1893 (townsite)
Incorporated 1 April 1911 (city)
  1967 (district)
 – Mayor Susan Roline
 – City Council
 – MP [Dan Albas]]
 – MLA (Prov.) Harry Lali
 – Total 24.9 km2 (9.6 sq mi)
Elevation 605 m (1,985 ft)
Population (Census 2006)
 – Total 6,998
 – Density 281/km2 (727.8/sq mi)
 – Demonym Merrittonian
Time zone PST (UTC−8)
 – Summer (DST) PDT (UTC−7)
Postal code V1K
Area code(s) 250
NTS Map 092I02
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.[1]

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, two weekly newspapers and the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology campus. Nearby, there are four provincial parks, more than 100 lakes, and several recreational trails. Merritt is officially branded as the Country Music Capital of Canada.

Highway 5, Highway 8, Highway 5A 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 New Democratic Party and in federal politics by the Conservative Party of Canada.



For years, the Merritt area was used as a gathering place by local settlers First Nations groups and a transportation route 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 which 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.[1]

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 Planners Ltd., a major employer in the city, and many other businesses, restaurants and hotels in Merritt are owned by members of this cultural group.[2]

The Community

Merritt in winter

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, and a middle school, Coquihalla Middle School, service 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 hosts a yearly Merritt Mountain Music Festival that draws more than 120,000 people every July. 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.

On March 18, 2008, the Walk of Stars Society announced that the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame will relocate from Calgary to Merritt.[3]

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.

Merritt on film

Merritt provided the backdrop for the Academy Award-nominated movie The Sweet Hereafter.[4] 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 is 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's hosted country stars such as Kenny Chesney, Reba McEntire and Wynonna Judd.


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 also hosts the Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo on the Saturday and Sunday of Labour Day Weekend every year.

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.

The Merritt Panthers high school teams compete in boys and girls volleyball, basketball, and rugby.

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.


Merritt has one local radio station, CKMQ, and two local newspapers. The Merritt Herald is published every Wednesday and the Merritt News is published every Thursday. The Herald also publishes a supplement every Friday called The Weekender. Merritt is also served by Shaw TV. Merritt's official Visitor's Guide is published by the Merritt News every May.


In 1995, Merritt's air quality was rated worst in British Columbia due to fine particulate matter in the air, thought to be caused by a combination of dry desert conditions, active lumber mills in populated areas and previously an operating beehive burner.[1] In 1997 studies showed that on average, 35 out of 1,000 people are hospitalized for respiratory problems each year in Merritt.[citation needed]


Merritt had a population of 6,998 people in 2006, which was a decrease of 1.3% from the 2001 census count. The median household income in 2005 for Merritt was $44,280, which is below the British Columbia provincial average of $52,709.[5]


Climate data for Merritt
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
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[6]

Surrounding communities


  1. ^ a b 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 
  2. ^ SFU Archives, ed 
  3. ^ The Canadian Press (2008-03-18). "Country Music Hall of Fame moves to B.C". Retrieved 2008-03-19. 
  4. ^ "Filming Locations for The Sweet Hereafter". The Internet Movie Database (IMDB). Retrieved 2008-11-15. 
  5. ^ "Merritt, British Columbia - Detailed City Profile". Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  6. ^ Environment CanadaCanadian Climate Normals 1971–2000, accessed 10 July 2009

External links

Coordinates: 50°6′43″N 120°47′12″W / 50.11194°N 120.78667°W / 50.11194; -120.78667

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