The Ontario Heritage Conference, a gathering of individuals with personal and/or professional interest in heritage preservation, is held each year in a different location across the province. The 2016 conference, May 12 to May 15, will be held in Stratford and St. Marys. While conference headquarters is the Arden Park Hotel in Stratford, some of the events will be held in St. Marys with informal tours on Thursday afternoon and both morning and afternoon presentations, panel discussions and guided tours on Saturday.
With Queen Street construction underway, the town may not seem ready to welcome special guests. However, the theme of the conference is Preservation in a Changing World and this is very pertinent in St. Marys right now. Most of the conference delegates will be from small cities and towns and all of these will have their own infrastructure challenges. The delegates will be interested to see how St. Marys is managing the process of retaining the “look” of our town while making necessary upgrades to the historic downtown core. There will be sessions dealing with all phases of this current project including the staging of it, the effort to maintain communication with stakeholders and local residents, parking issues, back alley access to businesses, design and beautification.
The delegates pay a conference fee and pre-register for sessions. Therefore most are not open to the public. However, one important presentation in St. Marys at 9 o’clock, Saturday morning, May 14, is open. Marianne McKenna, an architect of international renown, will speak in the auditorium of the St. Marys United Church on “Modern Construction Integrated with Heritage Buildings.” She will be introduced by Larry Pfaff, Chair of Heritage St. Marys. There will be either a modest admission charge for non-conference participants or a free-will offering.
For more information about the sessions in St. Marys, contact Trisha McKibbin at the Town Hall, 519-284-2340 or Amy Cubberley at the Museum 519-284-3556. For general information about the conference, visit this website: www.ontarioheritageconference.vpweb.ca.