‘Great demand for tourism’: Rideau Lakes to collaborate with Smiths Falls for heritage symposium

Rideau Lakes cemeteries and historic buildings are a great way to learn of the township’s history. – Laurie Weir photo

A Rideau Lakes historian pitched an idea to the Smiths Falls Heritage Committee a way to take part in the fall heritage symposium in town.

George German, chair of the of the Municipal Heritage Committee in Rideau Lakes, spoke to the heritage committee on Feb. 5 during its regular meeting, outlining a way they preserve heritage that Smiths Falls may be interested in.

“We treat all of the interest in culture and history almost as a business development approach – tourism,” he said. “We find there is a great demand for tourism to see the historic buildings and cemeteries. A lot of our focus is on that direction.”

In some of the larger villages – like Portland, Newboro, Delta and Elgin – there are self-guided walking tours that highlight the history. There are also driving tours and cycling tours that are encouraged.

German said there are 18 designated heritage properties in Rideau Lakes, and they have been promoting the township’s heritage through story boards in the larger villages with hamlets being looked at soon for placement.

“These story boards all reflect life the way it was in the 1800s,” he said. “A lot of research goes into them to get quality pictures that we can reproduce and put on a story board along with some descriptions of them.”

They’ve become popular sights for visitors and residents.

Another way the township is honouring its heritage is through videos by award-winning videographer Allison Smith.

German said he would like to have Smith come to the symposium to present one of her videos, “Fettercairn:  WWI on Indian Lake.”

“She’s on our committee and had done four for us so far,” German said. “It’s really impressive.”

It’s always nice to learn from others on how they’re remembering the histories, he noted.

“I believe in synergies,” he said.

The story boards are not inexpensive to make, as they’ve got to be able to sustain the weather.

The committee was receptive to German’s idea and invited him and Smith to an upcoming committee meeting once they start to plan for the fall event in Smiths Falls.

“It’s certainly something Smiths Falls doesn’t have,” said committee member Lorraine Allen. “We have similar time periods and buildings, but you have all those little rural areas that are all quite unique.”

German added: “We appreciate the opportunity, and you’ll be impressed.”

The Heritage Symposium focuses on expanding the local community’s knowledge of heritage preservation and the importance of heritage protection within the community. Each year’s event explores heritage preservation and conservation themes through presentations, discussions, and tours. It was held in October last year at the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario.

“The town’s heritage is held within the walls of its buildings and within the soils of our lands. The preservation and protection of our heritage assets is vital to ensure our stories are told in the years to come,” Dorothy Hudson, chair of the Municipal Heritage Committee, was quoted saying last fall.

“(The) Heritage Symposium provides the community the opportunity to learn how we can protect our historic downtown by creating a Heritage Conservation District and using the tools available to municipalities to promote heritage protection.”

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