Region preps to recognize anniversary of War of 1812 0
Southern Georgian Bay is gearing up for the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.
The War of 1812 started as a result of maritime disputes between Britain and the U.S. after the American Revolutionary War. Canada, as a British Colony, was swept up in the three-year war.
"We are very much looking forward to the next three, four years of activities related to the bicentennial and the war of 1812," said Marilyn Beecroft, natural heritage education specialist for Ontario Parks.
"Wasaga Under Siege, over the next few years, is just going to get better and better."
Beecroft added 2014 will be "the big one" to commemorate the sinking of the Nancy.
The Nancy was a private cargo vessel used in the war as a British cargo ship. U.S. forces sunk the schooner in August, 1814, in the Nottawasaga River. Over time an island of silt and sand - now known as Nancy Island - formed from over the wreck.
Last week, the Southern Georgian Bay War of 1812 bicentennial committee launched a more detailed website, which now includes maps and more information.
The committee has proposed a number of projects intended to educate the public and increase tourism to historic sites, in the lead-up to next year.
Projects proposed - or already underway - include:
-A new welcome centre at Nancy Island Historic Site in Wasaga Beach, which will be complete in a few weeks. The cost of all improvements at the site is estimated at more than $2 million.
-An exhibit which would travel between museums, art galleries, and histories sites in Simcoe County, which could cost more than $100,000.
-The Penetanguishene Road project, which will highlight the road's significance through an historical guide book, and a bronze statue of those who built it marking the route. The cost of this project is an estimated $200,000.
-A tall ships and battle of Georgian Bay re-enactment, which will see ships visit ports in the region over a two-week period in August, 2013. This will cost more than $800,000.
Project co-ordinator David Brunelle said the committee hopes the Ontario government will fund a significant portion of the tall ships project.
"One thing that the province is pushing is that communities don't have to have a direct relation to the War of 1812 in order to commemorate or celebrate something," said Brunelle.
A plan the committee is particularly excited about is what they are calling the cemetery project.
"A lot of the key founders in the communities in our region especially are veterans of the War of 1812, who were given land grants when the war was over," said Brunelle.
He used the example of James Keating, who was a prominent community member in Penetanguishene and has a school named after him. But, Brunelle says, people aren't widely aware of Keating's ties to the war.
"We probably don't realize how important the veterans of the War of 1812 are to this nation. That the roads you (drive on), some of the schools that you've attended, some of the churches you've been in, some of the infrastructure that you so enjoy today, was created by veterans of the war," said Lyn Downer, chairman of the Township of Tiny Heritage Committee.
"The reason we are (noting) acknowledgement of the veterans of the War of 1812 on their grave sites is because most people don't know who they are or where they are," he said.
Downer explained the bicentennial committee has chosen the Upper Canada Preserved medal to mark the burial sites. The medal was originally intended to honour the veterans, but they were never given out.
"It's 200 years late, but at least we're going to acknowledge them," he said. "If we can find their grave site, we will mark it."
Downer says it was not merely British settlers living in Canada who fought in the war.
"This was the converge of diverse cultures that came together to oppose a common enemy and it worked, because we're still here," he said.
Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton said, while planning for the bicentennial is still in the planning stages, October of 2012 is designated as commemoration month for the War of 1812.
"The government of Canada sees it as a foundational conflict that set many other things in motion in terms of Canada's history and its story - all Canadian persons from British and French origin, and our Aboriginal people all coming together and really taking up arms in many cases to defend the country," said Stanton. "And much of our confederation has its original beginnings in that conflict at the early part of the 19th century."
Stanton said there will be between 70 and 90 key events across Canada, and a few events of "national context" will be held in this area.
"There will be programs for communities to tap into funds," said Stanton, adding the funds are not just for communities with specific ties to the war.