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Governments failing to support County heritage

Terry Shortt and Janice Gibbons present the Heritage Award to Marc Seguin

Terry Shortt and Janice Gibbons present the Heritage Award to Marc Seguin. Photo contributed

Marc Seguin said politicians from all levels of government are failing to help preserve Prince Edward County’s heritage.

Seguin spoke out Thursday when he was honoured by the municipality’s Heritage Advisory Committee for his work to preserve Prince Edward County’s lighthouses. He received the Heritage Award from Janice Gibbins and councillor Terry Shortt, on behalf of the municipality.

Seguin has been active in heritage education and advocacy in the County for more than a decade, first as a member of the Heritage Advisory Committee, then chairman for four years and now as director of the local heritage preservation organization Save Our Lighthouses.

“Since leaving PEHAC in the capable hands of other passionate and concerned County residents a few years ago, I have seen the committee’s budget and resources reduced to virtually nothing,” Seguin said in a prepared statement. “By side-lining PEHAC in this way, not only is County Council verging on abrogation of its statutory responsibilities, but it is sending a very strong message to County residents and to the rest of Canada that the County’s built heritage is not important – that our history is not important.”

He challenged that some members of council only pay lip-service to the unique history of the County and its extraordinary stock of heritage buildings, “and they express faux outrage when significant old buildings like the Brick Church and many other buildings on Picton’s Main Street and elsewhere are demolished.

“If they truly had feelings for the significant heritage of the County and our unique sense of place, council would provide PEHAC with the staff support and tiny budget that they need, and council members would consider more carefully the advice of PEHAC and implement more of their well thought-out recommendations.”

He noted other levels of government share responsibility for not supporting built heritage.

“In the case of the nine heritage lighthouses in and around Prince Edward County, we can see that the Provincial government is allowing the 175-year-old Presqu’ile Point lighthouse to disintegrate. They also refuse to consider doing what County Council does not have the courage to do – that is to use the Ontario Heritage Act to provide some level of heritage protection to the privately-owned Salmon Point lighthouse.

“We see also the Federal Government refusing to use their own Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act to simply fast-track the heritage designation of the Point Traverse lighthouse which is rotting away under the ownership of Parks Canada. Barely 50 kilometers due east of here, on Nine Mile Point near Kingston, the oldest active lighthouse on the Great Lakes is threatened with destruction by neglect of its owners, the Government of Canada.

“Even when volunteer-run community organizations like Save Our Lighthouses and the Hastings Prince Edward Land Trust announce that they are willing to take over three of the County’s lighthouses because the federal government no longer wants to care for them, we are getting no help or support of any kind.”

Seguin called upon all levels of government to “look again at our unique and wonderful heritage and take the ever so small steps necessary to help preserve our heritage before it is gone forever… None of these steps require massive amounts of funding. All of them require only an appreciation of the importance of our history and a willingness to take a few small steps to preserve it.

Prince Edward County Heritage Awards were presented for the first time last year to Alan R. Capon, John Lyons and John and Diane Brisley as County residents who have preserved built heritage, or advocated for heritage education.

Seguin leads bid to save beacons of hope and safe harbour

Filed Under: Arts & CultureLocal News

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