Keep Keewatin Home seeks Tay council endorsement

·3 min read

Dan Travers wants to Keep Keewatin Home.

That's why he approached Tay Township's elected officials for support in obtaining a municipal heritage designation for the last surviving Edwardian-era ship currently docked in Port McNicoll, awaiting its fate at the hands of its owners, Skyline Investments.

Travers launched the campaign last summer to garner some support from Tay residents and those who have visited the Keewatin. Joining Travers as a delegate at the recent meeting was Fred Addis, the current curator of Friends of Keewatin.

"We’re requesting that Tay Township designate the Kee as a historically significant structure within the township," said Addis. "A designation by the Tay Heritage Committee would provide a number of benefits, but two primary ones: public support and notification by the owners if the ship is to be moved."

Coun. Barry Norris said that while all of council stands behind the Keewatin, he had some questions.

"One thing that keeps bothering me is that we don’t own the water and the land there," he said. "I get it; we’re just declaring it as historical, but the problem you get back into is that we’re declaring it but does it mean the boat has to remain here in Port and if we don’t own the water and land, how does that happen?"

Travers explained that the designation will not restrict or prevent the owners from moving the ship, however, it will provide recognition of the vessel’s providence in Tay Township.

"Designating the ship itself has no impact on the land in front of it," he said.

Addis said it's a step in the direction of convincing upper tiers of government when the Friends of Keewatin and Travers' campaign approach them.

"It’s really hard to make a case when speaking at provincial and federal level when we don’t even have local recognition," said Addis. "We’d just like to know that we have council in our corner when we’re addressing some of these hurdles in the coming months."

Like Norris, Coun. Sandy Talbot wasn't unconvinced in council's support for the Keewatin, but was cautious about the uncertainty of the situation.

"What if someone purchases the land from Skyline?" she said. "Then what happens to the boat? This council has always supported it, so did the previous council. It’s not the lack of support, but for me it’s the unknowns. That’s my concern."

Travers said he didn't have answers to the unknowns either. But he did fully address Coun. Paul Raymond's question around the impact of the designation on the residents and the township.

The endorsement does not put a financial burden on the taxpayers or the township, Travers said.

Steve Farquharson, general manager, protective and development services manager of planning and development services, explained the Tay Heritage Committee does its research and brings a report to committee for approval. Staff then prepares a report and brings it to council for approval.

"I have had discussions with the chair and we’re both trying to figure out examples of past ships that have gone through the process," he said, adding the committee would have to be re-engaged via Zoom to prepare something for the Keewatin.

"What is your timeline with respect to this?" Mayor Ted Walker asked Travers.

"Time is not on our side," said Travers. "The Kingston Museum and Skyline have been working together for this ship. We’re trying to make sure that doesn’t happen. We expect any steps toward moving the ship would happen in spring, so there’s a bit of a time crunch."

Farquharson suggested that if the committee works with the Friends of Keewatin and Travers, they can put together a report fairly quickly.

Council will now look at the matter again in a March committee meeting.

Travers' campaign is asking anyone who would like to display a sign to click here to download and print one or send an email (keepkeewatinhome@gmail.com) with an address for contact-less delivery to their doorstep.

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com