This is my first address to you as president of Heritage Ottawa, and I can say that the past year has been quite the learning curve! I have been generously supported on this curve by the members of the board of Heritage Ottawa, by our growing ranks of volunteers, and by you, the members of Heritage Ottawa. I would particularly like to thank past president David Flemming for his support and guidance, and I readily admit that I can never fill his shoes. Thank you, David!
First of all, let me extend Heritage Ottawa’s sincere thanks to several groups and individuals. Let’s start with our thanks to our wonderful city heritage planners, Stuart Lazear, Sally Coutts, and Lesley Collins, who have supported us with advice and information unstintingly. We are very sorry to see Stuart retire, but wish him well in his retirement, and hope to see him continue his engagement with Ottawa’s built heritage. We also acknowledge the support of the City of Ottawa, the Province of Ontario, and our generous corporate sponsors, Sandy Smallwood of Andrex Holdings; and Sussex Capital Inc., Janny Mills and Jeff Rosebrugh’s Performance Realty, who support our walking tours and lectures. I also would like to extend our thanks to the Councillors who have been supportive of heritage issues over the past year. Do we have any Councillors with us tonight? Councillor Jan Harder?
In the past year, our Membership has increased 12%, which is a pretty decent rate of return, and a vivid illustration of the growing interest in heritage issues in this city. We have sadly lost a couple of long-time members, including Marian Heringer and Monte Palmer. The friends and family of Marian Heringer kindly made a donation to Heritage Ottawa in her memory, and so far we have used that donation to support our very successful LeBreton Flats event, held on April 19th, when we learned about the past, present, and future directions for the Flats.
As you know, the Heritage Ottawa mandate is to help conserve Ottawa’s built heritage first of all by providing opportunities to learn about and appreciate our built heritage, and to help conserve our built heritage through advocacy. With respect to learning opportunities, this includes our walking tours, lecture series, publications, Newsletter, website and social media. In 2011, the walking tours attracted a record 550 participants last year, averaging 42 participants per tour, which raised over $4100 in revenue for Heritage Ottawa. This year’s walking tour season begins on June 10th, and once again there is an excellent selection of tours through many of Ottawa’s wonderful neighbourhoods. So on Sunday afternoons, come out and join us! We also participate in other walking tours, including the Rideau Canal Festival, held the first weekend in August.
The six lectures for 2011-2012 were attended by 419 people, averaging 70 attendees per lecture. While we charge for the walking tours, we offer the lecture series free of charge as part of our mandate to educate and inform about the importance of built heritage to our city and communities.
Our publications program is gearing up. In June we will officially launch the Glebe Walking Tour booklet, written by long-time Glebe resident and former Heritage Ottawa board member, John McLeod, so look out for that. Later in 2012 we hope to publish a profile of the life and works of Ottawa architect W.E. Noffke, written by architectural historian Shannon Ricketts and illustrated by photographer Brian Glenn. We hope to secure an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant towards the cost of this publication.
On the communications and promotions side, we produced three issues of the Newsletter last year, which comes with the sad news of the departure of Veronica Vaillancourt from her position as our long time editor. We warmly thank Veronica for her many years editing the Newsletter for us so well. Linda Hoad has kindly stepped into the position of Newsletter editor, and under Linda’s guidance, we are looking at producing more, but shorter newsletters, which will lighten our postal bill while continuing to keep you in touch with events. Heather Perreault ably oversees our website’s growing content, as well as our Facebook and twitter sites. We had over 43,000 visits to our website last year, up considerably from last year. Numerous public service announcements were issued with respect to the walking tours and lectures. We issued a number of press releases, and we had a particularly active relationship with the media in connection especially with our positions on Lansdowne Park and the Horticulture Building. During a one-day Retreat in March, the Board spent considerable time thinking about our approach to communications and how we can use the website, social media and new initiatives to raise the profile of Heritage Ottawa and increase our impact. We will soon be putting some of these ideas in place, starting by making the website more dynamic.
Other significant accomplishments of the past year include a heritage forum conducted in partnership with the New Edinburgh Community Alliance, a forum which was so successful that we hope to stage it again in conjunction with other community associations. Partnerships with community associations and other groups is definitely the way to build strong support for heritage conservation.
We are also pleased to see that the Clemow Estates Heritage Conservation District has come into being, after 6 years of effort by its residents, including Heritage Ottawa board member and secretary, Bill Price. Congratulations go to Bill and his team who brought this to fruition.
Advocacy issues only seem to increase in number and complexity. Our largest undertaking was the representation to the Conservation Review Board objecting to the City’s plans to de-designate and relocate the Horticulture Building. While Heritage Ottawa won the appeal, the City did not accept the CRB recommendation. The Horticulture Building is slated to be moved shortly. The City has committed to re-designating the building in its new location and repurposing it so that it will find a new function within the redeveloped Lansdowne Park. We are encouraging the city to enter into a conservation easement with the Ontario Heritage Trust for both the Horticulture Building and the Aberdeen Pavilion.
Heritage Ottawa is also participating in other advocacy issues, such as Vision Chaudière, which advocates for the revival of the Chaudière site. It was our members’ sharp eyes which spotted the demolition of the Groundwood PulpMill, and alerted the NCC and the media. David Flemming has been tracking the Commemorative Naming Committee deliberations, which seeks to provide the City with standards and guidelines for the naming of places, buildings, and venues. What’s in a name? Quite a bit, as we’ve seen by some recent controversies, so some guidance and consistency are in order. Heritage Ottawa regularly attends and makes representations to the Ottawa Built Heritage Advisory Committee, to the Arts, Heritage and Culture Advisory Committee, to Planning Committee and to Council, not just to oppose negative impacts to heritage, but also to encourage and support good development projects which embrace heritage. We have had input into the Centretown Community Design Plan, the Rideau Street Re-development plan, the Sisters of the Visitation in Westboro, the Christ Church Heritage Conservation District (HCD) development, impacts along the Rideau Canal, the proposed HCD for Briarcliffe, support for a revised plan for the Rockcliffe Park HCD, and the City’s and the NCC’s plans to demolish heritage buildings along Sussex Drive. We have also been in touch with both Algonquin Reserves, at Kitigan Zibi and at Golden Lake, hoping to open up opportunities to learn about sites in Ottawa of significance to Aboriginal peoples; we are, after all, on the unceded traditional territories of the Algonquin peoples.
Demolition by neglect continues to threaten our built heritage and our successful efforts of a few years ago to convince the City to begin work on a by-law addressing this problem seems to have been abandoned. We hope to see this initiative revived.
I am pleased to announce this year’s winner of the Cullingham Grant. The Cullingham Grant, named in honour of former Heritage Ottawa board member Gordon Cullingham, and this year it has been awarded this year to Andrew Elliott, for his study on the Glebe. We are also supporting two Ottawa area students to attend the Ontario Heritage Conference, taking place next weekend in Kingston. This is an excellent opportunity to promote demographic renewal in the heritage movement by giving future heritage professionals and activists an opportunity to learn more about heritage in Ontario, and to network within the heritage community. We also support Doors Open Ottawa, and I’m sure many of you have marked your calendars for this wildly successful peek behind the doors of some of Ottawa’s most fascinating structures. Our largest proactive event this past year was the April 19th event at the Mill Street Brewpub commemorating the 50th anniversary of the evictions at LeBreton Flats. We had three excellent speakers – Ottawa author Phil Jenkins, Trent University Profession Robert Picton, and the NCC’s Lori Thornton – addressing a capacity crowd of 200. Clearly, pub nights are the way to go! Now we just have to figure out how to make them pay….
Other upcoming activities include our participation in the University of Waterloo’s survey of heritage conservation districts. Have you ever wondered what it is like to live in one? Do you live in one, and wonder how successful these types of designations are, how effective they are at protecting heritage, how these districts affect the lives of those living in them? This year, Waterloo, in partnership with Heritage Ottawa, will be surveying the Rockcliffe Village, Lowertown, Centretown and New Edinburgh HCDs. And aren’t those the controversial areas of town! But we need volunteers to help with the door to door surveys.
So there are areas of concern and also areas where progress is being made in heritage conservation. But generally, I regret to say that these are worrisome times for heritage conservation, and not just in Ottawa. This time last year, HO President David Flemming began his annual address with an acknowledgement that it was the one hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the Canadian Parks Service. On the one hundred and first anniversary, we see that our national historic sites program is being gutted, a saddening development.
Heritage Ottawa is, as you know, a voluntary organisation, and we would not be able to accomplish what we do without the energetic support of many willing hands. Our volunteers are remarkable! There are 65 volunteers at last count, who have contributed 3500 hours of service to the City of Ottawa! I would also like to take this opportunity to thank those involved in the organisation of this AGM, especially Bill Price, and for those involved in our office administration, fund-raising/membership, especially Helga Jeanes and Jane Reid.
We need volunteers for several specific activities: the Heritage Keepers program, the Heritage Conservation District studies, and the walking tours. In the Heritage Keepers Program, so far we have good representation in the core areas of the city, but we are definitely weak in the post-amalgamation City of Ottawa areas. If this might interest you, I encourage you to talk to our Heritage Keeper coordinator, Nancy Oakley and learn from Nancy what is involved.
These have been the highlights of our work on your behalf over the past year. I and the board of Heritage Ottawa look forward to serving you in the busy year ahead.