Monthly Archives: March 2021

Spring Cleanup Nears At Holy Cross Cemetery

WELLAND – Holy Cross Cemetery’s annual spring cleanup will commence on April 6, 2021.

All wreaths, tin cans, glass jars, flower pots and similar articles not removed will be disposed of on April 6, 2021.

If you are unable to pick up your wreaths, etc., by this date you can call the cemetery at 905-734-4172 and make arrangements for the staff to hold the articles for a short period of time until you are able to retrieve the items.

(Source: Diocese of St. Catharines website)

College Will Lower Flags To Honour Lives Lost To COVID-19

Daniel J. Patterson Campus, Niagara-on-the-Lake/Supplied photo
Sean Kennedy

From Friday March 12 to Sunday March 14, flags at Niagara College campuses will be lowered to half-mast to mark the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 case in the Niagara region and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives to the pandemic.

Niagara College joins Niagara’s municipalities and other organizations in recognizing the challenges and loss the region has faced throughout the last year, and the resilience of our communities.

Welland campus/File photo Joe Barkovich

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on our Niagara College community, the Niagara region and the world,” said Sean Kennedy, president, Niagara College. “The extraordinary events of the past year demonstrated our capacity to adapt, persevere and support one another, but we’ve also experienced many challenges and tremendous loss. Niagara College stands with our community to honour those who perished and to recognize the frontline healthcare and essential workers whose heroic efforts keep us all safe.”

“COVID-19 has resulted in enormous obstacles over the course of the past year. It presented challenges, but more importantly created solutions,” said Tom Price, president of the Niagara College Student Administrative Council (NCSAC). “The student community of Niagara College has endured these setbacks and difficulties with great resiliency and perseverance. This last year has shown that inclusiveness, unity, and strength can overcome life’s difficulties. Moving forward, we will continue to adapt, and continue to collectively support one another regardless of what is thrown our way.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, more than 365 Niagara residents have lost their lives to COVID-19.

For information about Niagara College’s response to COVID-19, please visit www.niagaracollege.ca/covid19/

(Source: Niagara College news release)

Heritage Lives: Revisiting The Past Where Rails And Water Meet

By Terry Hughes

Our column for this month features my train layout and the memories I had growing up in the Niagara region. It was a time when everything was busy and that included the local railways that serviced this area. Shortly after the war, the Canadian National Railway was so busy that it had to borrow locomotives from three American railways and purchase six switching engines from the Buffalo Creek Line. One of them was sent to Port Colborne. 

Here in Welland, it took four yard engines switching throughout the day some four hundred cars in and out of industries from the north plant of the Atlas Steels to the John Deere facility in the south. By 1955 New York Central and Toronto Hamilton and Buffalo were moving loaded and empty cars to the tune of fifty-six thousand to local industries here and Port Colborne where the Nickel Plant, Canada Furnace, three grain elevators and the cement plant to name a few were located. Throw in what was going on with the Welland Canal and it was easy to see why this area was so industrialized!

In an effort to replicate those days, a lot of research went into the type of engines, freight and passenger cars, automobiles, billboard advertising, industries and a host of other things. Although many of those details were experienced as a seven-year-old, the general idea of what was going on then is happening in my basement now.

Almost all the structures on the layout are scratch built which meant getting or developing plans for each one. The stations at Port Colborne, Welland Junction, Port Robison and  Merritton were built using plans from the archives in Ottawa. The two bridges over the canal were built using plans from the St. Lawrence Seaway. The locomotives were rebuilt by myself or replicated by Korean factories.       

So let’s take a look at what is going on in our basement.

The first picture (top left) shows TH&B 104 moving a string of box cars to Port Colborne and the Robin Hood Mill. The next three pictures show the Fort Erie Race Train on its way past the Ontario Paper Plant.

Notice the scratch-built wigwags (a type of railroad grade crossing signal) in the first picture of this train and the locomotive (6201) pulling the train is identical to 6218 in Fort Erie. After the race train photos, the next picture shows Engine #5560 moving a way freight through Port Robinson and the final shot is at the harbour showing a laker, the AlgoSoo, docked at the Canada Furnace in Port Colborne. 

The layout serves as the stage for the operation of each train. Using timetables from that era, it is easy to replicate the multitude of trains that passed through the area going to places such as Hamilton, Mimico and Spadina in Toronto, Windsor and Sarnia.

Next Column: The Townsend Case, A Record-Making Trial Here In The Welland Court house.

(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His opinion column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)

Cold Fact: ‘No Ice Is Safe Ice’

KNOW THE RISKS BEFORE STEPPING ONTO ANY FROZEN WATER, FIRE SERVICE ADVISES

On the ice, near the Welland International Flatwater Centre (File photo Joe Barkovich)

WELLAND – The Welland Canal is a natural gathering place throughout the whole year; it’s a place for recreation, competitive sport or just to relax by the waterfront. However, oftentimes residents, new and old, forget that it is still active water, especially when there is a layer of ice blanketing the water below. Welland Fire and Emergency Services want to remind all that No Ice is Safe Ice.

35% of drownings in Canada take place between late Fall and early Spring, when there was no intention of entering the water. If you fish, snowmobile, ice race, cross country ski, go for walks, or skate on frozen lakes, ponds, or canals, we urge you to know the risks and the important information that can keep you safe or save your life.

The Facts:

  •  Water in Ontario is colder than you think.
  •   A person can go into cold water shock in less than 1 minute.
  •  You can only survive a few minutes in cold water.
  •  Most drownings occur in water less than 20 degrees Celsius.
  •  No ice is without risk.
  •  Motorized activities over frozen bodies of water poses a large risk.
  •  Repeated passes can unknowingly fracture the ice below

Ice Safety Tips:

  • Check the ice thickness.
  •  Colour of ice matters
  • Clear blue ice is the strongest
  •  White or opaque ice is much weaker, stay away from ice that looks honeycombed, common during thaws or in the spring
  • Near-shore ice is often much thicker and safer than ice farther out, especially at the start of the winter season.
  • Ice that formed over flowing water, springs, pressure cracks or old ice holes can be weaker than the surrounding ice.
  •   Wear a lifejacket and survival suit, these items can buy you some time and can preserve body heat.
  •  If you are going out onto ice, know what to do if you break through.

Visit the Water/Canal Safety – Winter Edition webpage and watch the Welland Fire and Emergency Services team demonstration of life saving tips https://www.welland.ca/HotTopics/WaterIceSafety.asp

(Source: City of Welland news release)

Richard Grecco Resigns As Bishop Of Charlottetown Diocese

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

Grecco/Supplied photo

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island bishop, Richard Grecco, according to a media release received today from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB). The former St. Catharines diocese priest has been bishop of Charlottetown, the island’s sole diocese, for 12 years.

The resignation is effective today, March 4, 2021, the occasion of Grecco’s 75th birthday. According to canon law, bishops must submit their resignation upon reaching the age limit of 75.

But a letter from Grecco to his island faithful and posted this date under ‘Diocesan News’ on the diocese’s website (Diocese of Charlottetown) provides more details: 

Coat of Arms

“Since December I have been in failing health and recently when told of the diagnosis, I requested your prayerful support. I am most grateful for your prayers, kindness and thoughtful support. By co-incidence or by providence today on the occasion of my seventy-fifth birthday I begin a four month program of chemotherapy. This follows a week-long radiation program which helped the painful symptoms considerably. With confidence in your prayers and the medical information that a high percentage of patients achieve remission, I hope to be able to resume ministry as a retired Bishop.”

According to Grecco’s letter, “The mission of the Diocese will soon be in the hands of a new Bishop. In the meantime, the College of Consultors of the Diocese will elect a Diocesan Administrator. He (a priest of the Diocese) will administer the Diocese until the appointment of a new Bishop. This new Administrator will be announced within the next two weeks.”

Grecco was born in St. Catharines, according to the media release. He was ordained to the priesthood on September 2, 1973 and served as an associate pastor and pastor during three periods, (1973 to 77; 1989 to 1992 and 1994 to 1998) and as the diocese’s Vicar General from 1995 to 1998). 

On December 5, 1997, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of London, Ontario, and was ordained to the episcopate on February 2, 1998 at St. Alfred Church, St. Catharines. On April 27, 2002, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Toronto, where he served until his appointment as Bishop of the Diocese of Charlottetown on July 11, 2009. He was installed as Bishop of Charlottetown on September 21, 2009, where he served until his resignation.

Grecco’s letter to the faithful was preceded by one from the Chancellor of the diocese. Dated February 24, Rev. Gerald Gabriel wrote: “I would like to bring to your attention that Bishop Grecco has been experiencing health issues. These ailments commenced just prior to Christmas and continue to this day. Recently he completed radiation treatment. However, he is awaiting additional test results with the prospects of further remedial treatment being necessary.

During this Season of Lent, I ask that you keep our Bishop in your prayers. Your thoughtful concern is certainly appreciated. Yet I ask, in the interest of the Bishop’s restfulness, that you refrain from sending e-mails or best wishes for his recovery. Thank you!”

Connecting Seniors From The Comfort Of Their Homes

WELLAND The City of Welland Recreation and Culture Division has been awarded a Provincial Seniors Community Grant in the amount of $20,650 to provide a Seniors’ Centre Without Walls (SCWW) program in Welland. The SCWW program will provide a dependable, supportive group and learning centre by connecting seniors with a variety of essential programs and activities from the comfort of their home.  

Starting March 22, seniors can easily join and enjoy free programming using their telephone; no computer or internet is needed. Just a phone call connects participants with educational discussions, health and wellness activities, local history conversations, games sessions and service information. Seniors are not alone when they join this interactive telephone-based virtual seniors’ centre. It’s fun, free and easy!

If you or someone you know is finding it difficult to get out and be part of the community, Seniors’ Centre Without Walls will be available mornings and afternoons on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays starting March 22 until the end of May.

Registration can be done by contacting recreation@welland.ca or 905-735-1700 ext. 4000 and referencing Seniors’ Centre Without Walls (SCWW). A downloadable calendar of events is available on the Seniors’ Centre Without Walls section on the Online Wellness Guide https://wellness.welland.ca, printed copies are available at the Welland Community Wellness Complex and all branches of the Welland Public Library. 

(Source: City of Welland news release)

Heritage Lives: Ghosts Of The WRCC

LAST IN THE SERIES: WRCC, Conflict And Dissolution

By Terry Hughes

Today, the city relies on an entity called the Waterway Advisory Committee when doing canal business. It replaced the Welland Recreational Canal Corporation (WRCC) several years ago but not without controversy. We have built a background of information, in previous articles, on how the WRCC originated. What remains is to suggest why the WRCC never should have been replaced and how the city, in my opinion, is not in a very secure place for canal development as we look into the future.

Indications are the city is pleased with the new direction in which they are moving with the  Waterway Advisory Committee. They are now getting a belly full of activity because this new direction also means more work for council. Seeking information and making decisions using a multi-level model like this one is time consuming when it sometimes requires instant action. The WRCC was able to make decisions on bidding on events, for example, when dealing with the international community without the hindrance of council. This is a prerequisite when dealing with international events. But with the current structure, stakeholders within the advisory committee have a stronger voice and it will be difficult to find common ground to deal with conflicting expectations.

Five years before replacement of the board, much criticism was leveled at the WRCC because they did not live up to their expectations in fundraising and bringing money to city coffers and the local community. That is understandable. And yet, in my view, while there was a steady drip, drip, drip of criticism, it was without effort to explain what went wrong! Let’s look at the record.

PAN AM GAMES

Mayor Frank Campion did a survey after the games of local businesses and announced there was no financial benefit to them. He’s right but there was no follow up to find out why! There was no mention of it in the press and the public was not informed. The participants were housed at Brock University, bused to events and to everyone’s surprise, upon completing their event they were bused back to Brock. There was little opportunity for local businesses and culture groups to deal with them. Apparently, two north Welland eateries, Boston Pizza and M. T. Bellies, enjoyed their business, but downtown restaurants which could have offered special deals to visiting athletes as they did when Welland hosted Little NHL Tournaments years ago, were not in the mix.

A year after the games had concluded the province made an announcement. According to reports on a Toronto television station, the Wynne government acknowledged the games were a financial disappointment. And the topper for us here was the province, which was to contribute $200,000 for groundskeeping of the WIFC property, was reneging on its promise.

THE INTERNATIONAL DRAGON BOAT RACES

When discussions came up about the financial loss the city took with this event, Mayor Campion was not interested to find out why it occurred. As quoted in media reports,”there was no need to debate the issue. We should be looking at the future. So let’s move on.”

Fortunately the city treasurer did bring to council’s attention that a large number of passports of athletes attending the races was revoked by the federal government creating a major cash flow issue. How can we find fault with the WRCC for this!

CHALLENGING THE WRCC GOVERNANCE MODEL. 

When referring to previous articles on the topic of developing a governance model, the practice of operating at arm’s length by local boards was adopted by the canal board of 1994-96 for the future WRCC. Mayor Cindy Forster did not operate in this manner but instead it functioned like the parks and recreation board and she chaired it herself but Mayor Damian Goulborne did allow the board that freedom. The need to become an incorporated board to guarantee and protect the federal money awarded to the city with the canal lands transfer was another reason for the WRCC not to be forthcoming in sharing some of their business. Yet three members on council who represented the city at those meetings could have shared their experience with council at in camera meetings. Instead, some members of council waited to criticize the WRCC in public when many of these problems could have been settled in private.

SOME VALID CRITICISMS

During the later period of the operation of the WRCC, budgets presented to council did not measure up. One councillor said that these budgets did not compute. The IlluminaAqua concert series started out as making the top one hundred list of popular provincial events but due to competition and a lack of marketing it became a money loser. With proper promotion, it could have become an attraction to draw people from outside the Niagara Peninsula. The final concert was broadcast on PBS at the Buffalo and later the Detroit stations and got rave reviews.

WHAT WAS LOST WITH THE DISSOLUTION OF THE WRCC

Before we look at this matter, one would have to criticize the timing of city-organized meetings to allow for public input. Why hold two public meetings on this important matter in the month of JUNE when everyone is thinking of the summer holidays! Some forty-five people came to the first one and fewer attended the second meeting. Attendees were limited in how much they were allowed to say. Obviously the die was cast and the timing of these meetings was irresponsible.

When the WRCC was dissolved these questions became  apparent:

1) Is the protection that assured the fund could not be taken from us if overtaken by another municipality gone?

2) Can the canal fund be used for purposes other than for the canal lands?

3)  Can lands along the canal under the jurisdiction of the former WRCC be sold without a long-term lease in place?

4) Will a historic structure like the Second Aqueduct (Cross Street Pool ) fall to the wrecker’s ball?

5) Will transparency and openness be lost without public input, for example, the so-called Titanic Project – the floating pool in the canal as opposed to a five hundred foot public beach? 

6) Aggressively secure the rowing course at Dain City for development with addition of an additional lane and large seating areas so that it supplants the Henley Course in St. Catharines as best or one of the best in Canada?

7) More openness for public opinion on important decisions about this resource?

8) Will cost of maintaining the canal lands increase by having city unionized workers do the maintenance work?

9) Will the change in status from the former WRCC to the Waterway Advisory Committee impact the city’s ability to secure grants for special projects for the canal lands?

When reflecting back to the final June meetings where the city supposedly gave the public an opportunity to voice opinions, some who stayed after the meeting felt minor tweaking of the WRCC could have occurred without its complete overhaul. The area of greatest concern was the budget and yet in its early days this issue was never a problem. What was troubling was a division on council where, as reported by the media, it was always the ‘A team’ (supporters of the WRCC)  vs the ‘B team’ (their opponents). With the election of Mayor Campion the tables were turned and the time left before demise of this committee was in doubt. For many council members it became a personal thing that in many cases clouded the judgment of positive thinking. Only time will tell if this action taken by city council was the best for this community and the future of the waterway.                          . 

Next Column:  IT’S 1947 AND RAILWAYS IN THE NIAGARA PENINSULA  ARE HUMMING.

(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His opinion column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)