The St. Lawrence Parks Commission is beginning the process to dispose of the historic train at Crysler Park. This train is not just a landmark for visitors, but a quiet reminder of what was here before the St. Lawrence Seaway was built. This landmark is to go to a new home, and it’s likely not in South Dundas. How this process has unfolded, however, leads to more questions than answers.
The SLPC has cited an estimate of $1.1 million to restore the train as the main reason for its disposal. Agency chair Bob Runciman said the SLPC has decided it has other, more pressing priorities. This might be a sound argument if all the facts were made available and the decision process conducted transparently. Sadly that is not the case.
How did the SLPC arrive at the large restoration bill? The Leader asked for the detailed estimates, but parks officials have not yet released that information. Were restoration experts such as the Canadian Railroad Historical Association, or the Bytown Railway Society asked for a second opinion? Did the SLPC engage with municipal and community partners in an open and transparent manner to find a solution? No. Any meeting that did take place was not conducted in a public forum such as during a South Dundas council meeting.
This is not the first time the SLPC has acted without public consultation, dialogue, or transparency. It was not all that long ago that the commission cut down the trees that lined the centre battlefield lawn without warning. Yearly, residents have dealt with diminished access to beaches, parks, and public areas. The agency continually deviates from its mandate that stipulates building community partnerships and presenting/interpreting historical attractions.
According to our Premier, we are in a new era with a “government for the people.” The SLPC continues to be the antithesis of that sentiment. The people of South Dundas do not want to see any more of their history disappear. Ridding itself of the train display will not improve the SLPC’s financial situation, as it has never pro-actively maintained this artifact. This community stabilized the site for the agency 20 years ago. By that logic, what else could be sold off by the SLPC? More buildings? More land? More history? Will these be the next to go because the commission cannot maintain what it currently has?
This process has not been well thought out and is very ill-timed. Is this what we want from our commission?