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Heritage & Conservation Centre At John R. Park Homestead Celebrates Grand Opening

Friday July 2nd, 2021, 6:50pm


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Sam Keller, Interpreter; Tim Byrne, CAO; Lisa Bauer, Friends of the John R. Park Homestead; Mayor Larry Snively; Claire Wales, Essex Region Conservation Foundation President; Tania Jobin, ERCA Chair, Alex Toldo; Lynn Baker, John R. Park Homestead Advisory Board; Kristen Ives, Curator.

The new Heritage & Conservation Centre at the John R. Park Homestead Conservation Area has been completed and a ribbon cutting was held Friday.

The experience begins with a grand entrance to The Stephanie & Barry Zekelman Foundation Welcome Centre, which includes the Town of Essex Tourism Hub, and serves as a tourism conduit for the region. Expanded exhibit areas tell the story of the Homestead’s past, and the gift shop features beautiful handmade items from local artisans.

The Stephanie & Barry Zekelman Foundation Creative Commons is the centre’s main interior teaching space. It triples the site’s current teaching capacity, and offers an important, modern, indoor space to assist in the delivery of programs where specialty equipment, such as microscopes, light tables and scientific specimens, is utilized. The Creative Commons also provides an exhibit area where educational displays and sensitive historical artifacts can be displayed in climate-controlled environment.

“The Stephanie and Barry Zekelman Foundation is proud to be a party to such an important project for our community and our county. The Heritage and Conservation Centre will provide a unique opportunity to educate our community as to the importance of our ecosystem and our need to protect and preserve it. We want to thank everyone who has contributed both monetarily and with their hard work and vision to create such a wonderful space,” said Barry Zekelman, The Stephanie & Barry Zekelman Foundation.

The Toldo Foundation Outdoor Classroom and Wildlife Viewing Area will allow thousands of students and visitors to take in the historic outbuildings, heritage gardens and orchard, and most spectacularly, the best vantage point of the western basin of Lake Erie. With a large body of evidence confirming importance of outdoor learning spaces for a child’s physical and mental well-being, the importance of this innovative learning space cannot be overstated.

“At a time when connection to the outdoors and the need for innovative learning spaces has never been more important, the Toldo Foundation is proud to support the Essex Region Conservation Foundation and our students of all ages in the creation of a unique and environmentally conscious learning space,” said Alex Toldo, Trustee, Toldo Foundation.

The Centre features a number of conservation features, including an energy efficient lighting system, made possible with a grant from Farm Credit Canada. It will also function as a centralized location for flood forecasting operations so that ERCA may continue to deliver the important Flood Advisory Program on behalf of the Province of Ontario.

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