AN INTERNATIONAL BID PLANNED TO MAKE OIL FIELDS UNESCO SITES

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A Polish academic says Fairbank Oil Fields and the Oil Museum of Canada are “monuments of history” and should be part of an international bid for UNESCO World Heritage designation.

Dr. Boguslaw Szmygin from Lublin University of Technology in Bobkra, Poland, encouraged Canada to join with Poland and other countries around the world to put forward a serial designation of early oil sites for world heritage.

Szmygin was in Lambton County for an international oil heritage conference Thursday and Friday. He visited Oil Springs Saturday to see the national historic site first hand. The International Committee for the Conservation of Industrial Heritage (TICCIH) organized the conference drawing delegates from Poland, Scotland, Spain, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Canada. TICCIH advises on UNESCO world heritage designations. The Oil Museum of Canada, operated by the Lambton County, and the Fairbanks Oil Fields unsuccessfully applied to Canada’s Tentative List to be considered for a world heritage designation in 2017. They will be applying again, but Szmygin hopes it can be a joint application of all those countries involved with the early development of the oil industry.

He called the Oil Museum of Canada and the Fairbanks Oil Fields “a living package from the past.”

Szmygin’s country is no stranger to oil development. Bobkra had its first extraction of oil in 1854, four years before the first commercial oil strike in Oil Springs in 1858. There is a museum in Bobkra to commemorate the oil and gas industry, as well as 60 oil wells, some of which are still in use in Poland, near the Ukrainian border.

Szmygin feels there is support for the world heritage designation at the local level in Lambton County, but the problem might be at the federal government level. “Oil was so important,” he said but now has a negative connotation due to global warming.

He called the Fairbanks Oil Fields and the Oil Museum of Canada “monuments of history.” The discovery of oil in Oil Springs led to the development of Lambton County with the construction of roads, rail and farm drainage.

Pat McGee of Fairbanks Oil who is the chair of the steering committee for TICCIH, said there are many who never heard of Oil Springs and its contribution to the oil industry. She called the conference a huge boon to raise the international profile of the community and the effort to get world heritage designation.

McGee said the next step is to determine what is the best course of action moving forward. The summary report will be prepared about the conference and it will be shared internationally.

Blake Ellis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent