Manager's Report (winter 2017)
by David O’Hara, Site Manager
It seems each year that we look forward to the next with the hope that our calendar of events might somehow combine with the ongoing world of construction in and around Fort York in a much more manageable way. Unfortunately, it's never been the case.
Our 2017 calendar is a full one with many regular events and programs planned to return and with new and enhanced offerings—many forming a part of the City of Toronto's year-long TO Canada with Love program of celebrations, commemorations, and exhibitions honouring Canada's 150th birthday.
The fort has already hosted our annual Queen Charlotte's Ball and the 10th annual, and sold-out, Mad for Marmalade to begin the year. Our Vimy 100 Toronto event is planned for April 8 and 9, honouring the 100th anniversary of those who fought at Vimy Ridge. On April 8 the public will experience First World War re-enactor displays of infantry, artillery, cavalry, medicine, music, and food alongside Great War themed exhibits and films. On April 9 a military remembrance parade and commemorative service by the Canadian Armed Forces will be followed by the dedication of a Vimy oak tree within Garrison Common. The commemorative service will be attended by the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, and Mayor John Tory. Vimy 100 Toronto is part of the city's TO Canada with Love program. More information on the weekend events is available at toronto.ca/fortevents.
There is a citizenship ceremony planned for April 19 and we'll then move through to Doors Open and other events in May before an extremely busy June. On the heels of the annual Field Trip (http://fieldtriplife.com/) and Taste of Toronto (http://toronto.tastefestivals.com/), mark your calendars and please visit us for National Aboriginal Day and the Indigenous Arts Festival, running from June 21st through to the 25th. Watch for much more to come throughout the remainder of 2017.
We continue to work with The Bentway Conservancy (http://www.thebentway.ca/about/) on the design and implementation of its first phase across the frontage of Fort York National Historic Site and on various programs and events throughout 2017. We were pleased to hear that Julian Sleath was recently appointed chief executive officer of The Bentway. In addition to his extensive background with cultural events and venues across Canada, the UK, and beyond, Julian knows Fort York as a former program manager for cultural events with the City of Toronto, and is familiar with its significance and the many years of work that have gone into getting the site to where it is today. We look forward to working with Julian and The Bentway Conservancy to build on what we've accomplished already by bringing a new and dynamic year-round program of events to The Bentway and Fort York. Construction of The Bentway throughout 2017 will impact several areas of Fort York. This, combined with the construction of the Garrison Crossing (see page 10), scheduled to be complete by this fall, will complicate the year.
One of the projects next on the to-do list at Fort York involves the north perimeter of the site between Bathurst Street and Garrison Crossing. Working with staff in the city's Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division, a trail will be constructed connecting CityPlace and lands east of Bathurst Street with Fort York lands under Bathurst and to the west. The multi-purpose trail will extend west at the lower rail corridor level, before climbing the slope to connect with the landing point of the new bridge. This trail follows the traces of the original Garrison Creek ravine system and the original ramparts of Fort York, providing a unique ravine-like experience in the core of the city. Opportunities exist to interpret the multi-layered history of the site, to remove invasive plant species and plant native species, to provide better access to the community gardens, and to find a more secure location for the beehives currently on site. News of this project will be reported as it proceeds.
Vandalism of the beehives at Fort York late last year drew significant attention to the fact that our program offerings go beyond military history. Toronto Honeys, who manage beehives at various locations around the city, have been working at Fort York since the spring of 2012. The bees thrived here while contributing to pollination in and around the fort. What began as two colonies had grown to seven, producing approximately 550 lb of honey in 2016. This honey, which captures the distinct taste of the local flowers, is incorporated into several of the recipes used in our historic kitchen and is available for sale in the museum store. The vandalism to the hives has left Toronto Honeys and our Fort York bees in a very unfortunate situation. Should you wish to contribute towards the rebuild, please donate to the Friends of Fort York in trust for the Toronto Honeys. Tax receipts will be issued for gifts in excess of $25. Cheques may be mailed to The Friends at 260 Adelaide St. E., Box 183, Toronto, M5A 1N1.
On the staff front, we're pleased to announce that Erica Roppolo has joined the Fort York team as our acting museum outreach officer. Erica has been with Museums & Heritage Services as a support assistant and as a museum attendant for over two years, and has experience working at six City of Toronto Historic Sites. Prior to joining M&HS, Erica had a number of internships and contracts with City of Toronto special events, including Nuit Blanche, Luminato Festival and TIFF.