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Open letter to future council: Save our heritage

I am deeply concerned about the destruction of the County’s heritage sites as well as development that does nothing to enhance and complement its past. The protection and preservation of our historical areas are crucial to PECs economic growth as a place to live and work as well as a tourist destination. Our history creates our uniqueness which distinguishes PEC from other (tourist) areas.

Over the last decade I have watched many landmarks on Picton’s Main Street disappear due to fires and demolition, only to be replaced by structures that do not enhance the character of the streetscape. Sympathetic development can be done – both to the delight of those strolling Main Street and the financial success of the developers. Evidence of this can be seen by the buildings restored by the Bake, Cleave and Rogers families who have done a fantastic job of redeveloping our historical buildings.  I am hopeful that our ‘soon to be elected’ local council will put a stop to the destruction and put plans in place for future development that will preserve our heritage and history.  A street design plan must be prepared with guidelines and incentives, as well as penalties for non-compliance.

Of critical importance now, due to their slow deterioration and, for the Harbour, imminent development decisions, are two areas which I would like to highlight.
First, the redevelopment of Picton harbour needs to be planned with the aim of making it a people place (tourist and boating attraction), not only revitalizing but celebrating our heritage. Picton is what it is due in large part to the early shipping days in the Harbour. This is one of a few unique natural harbours on the Lake. It is a real treasure and is at a critical turning point.

Currently, the owner of Tip of the Bay is pushing forward for a townhouse waterfront development. I hope Planning and Council will give priority to any plans submitted which allow public access, amenities and attractions. So far the developer is only proposing to rebuild the boardwalk for the public with no provision for visiting boaters or small cruise lines, shops or restaurants.  Where is the vision?  This can be a win/win situation, with commercial enterprise and residential housing, allowing enjoyment for all County residents.

Secondly, Camp Picton (originally No. 31 Bombing and Gunnery School) on the Heights is one of the last remaining WWII training sites. Over the past decades it has been slowly deteriorating.  Wake up people! This is a Canadian treasure. We have the opportunity to revive it and turn this into one of Canada’s National Historic sites (look at Fort Henry and Louisburg).  As local resident and historian Peter Lockyer states ‘History Lives Here’ !  (see his website HistoryLivesHere.ca). Many groups can be involved in this endeavor, including the current site owners, Council, the people of PEC, Heritage Canada, Parks Canada, the Canadian Legion and the Armed Forces.

Both these items are expensive and long term, however our next Council needs to put a vision in place that will guide this to happen for PECs future benefit.

Please!  Put these items high on your agenda before it is too late and our opportunity is gone forever.

The following are comments posted on Countylive:
My comment to Bev Campbell’s re-election campaign promise on Countylive.ca:
Way to go Bev!  Reclaiming Picton Harbour “for the benefit of our community” is absolutely crucial to enhancing the heritage of Picton for the community and for the growing tourist market. With the current Council, public access to our heritage natural harbour could have been gone forever.  What is the attraction to a waterfront town? In large part, it is the WATERFRONT.  Picton harbour is steeped in history of the bygone barley days, canning factories and tall ships.  I just got back from Halifax and their harbour area attracts a multitude of local residents and many tourists.  It is by far one of the biggest draws to Halifax.  Even a local town like Gravenhurst was progressive and insightful enough to restore their waterfront, honoring their boatbuilding legacy.

We have the perfect opportunity to have a historically-themed waterfront attraction in Picton.  Envision walking down town hill or arriving by boat and cruise ship to a boardwalk promenade that is filled with waterside cafes, unique shops and mini museums depicting the County’s heritage. Ah what a sight!! The opportunity for housing is still available with condos on upper stories with harbour views.  With the current Council we almost lost public access to the head of the harbour by the Town Hill to the current owner of the Tip of the Bay to build private waterfront housing with NO PUBLIC ACCESS to the harbour.  Council has the power to stop this from occurring in the future.   THIS IS OUR LAST CHANCE to do it right! Council, the land owners, together with public input, have the opportunity to develop a plan that will make our harbour a  ‘people place’ steeped in beauty and heritage that will benefit all of the County for the years to come.
Paul Wallace in Cressy

This is my brother’s comment in response to mine.  He is a regular visitor to the county and is concerned by the destruction which was allowed to happen. From John Wallace:

In fulfilling a vision, money will always be an issue. But the first thing is to have the vision. This is what the leaders in a community should foster above all. Dollars and cents are important but without an inspiring concept of what your community should be, codified into planning principals, there is a real danger that opportunities that could yield delight, pride, and optimal economic gain both to residents and visitors will not be realized. Once guidelines have been established, developers will be free to make money directed in a way that will enhance the whole community, now and in the decades to follow.

My brother has presented a wonderful verbal picture of what is possible on the waterfront.  He has made clear it would be a most attractive destination, drawing far more people and business that currently visit the area. It’s this kind of visioning that is required for the entire community.

I visit the County regularly and enjoy the historic buildings and charming houses. I admire new developments that maintain and enhance the character of the streetscape. However, it is obvious that in the past less enlightened individuals, indeed governments have not been so sensitive. Had there been design guidelines in place these mistakes could have be avoided. Such guidelines may have made unthinkable the recent assault on a historic church. Perhaps not – so there must be significant disincentives put in place for violating the principals. At the same time more positive avenues must be identified for bringing together different elements that can work together and assemble funding to realize the vision.

Paul Wallace

Filed Under: Letters and Opinion

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  1. Craig LeCavalier says:

    This is a great post…

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