Mission? To Inspire curiosity…
Like so many in the crowd, I appreciated being on hand for the opening of the new Aquatarium on the shores of the St. Lawrence River. It was a beautiful day, windy and cool, but sunny and each speaker’s words were inspiring.
Bill Rogerson, the executive director, served as MC. it was a pleasure to watch him, surrounded by his professional team including the newly-trained Aquatarium Volunteers.
The first speaker was Tony Barnes, head of the steering committee. He set the tone with “Stop me if you have heard this before, but today I am going to announce the opening day of the Aquatarium… Never was there a flicker of doubt that this day would arrive and that 50,000 people would have a new-and-compelling reason to visit downtown Brockville.” He went on to mention a flag-raising, cannons, ribbon-cutting and the Christening* of the *“SSTeKamp*.” He thanked his fellow board members, volunteers, staff, individual donors and the funding partners.
Tony was followed by the Federal government’s representative, Mark Garretson, former Mayor of Kingston and now the Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Thousand Islands. He brought congratulations from the Federal Government and explained how the project is a reflection of assisting in the economic development of the region while helping to inspire the next generation, our youngsters, to explore and be inspired.
Brockville’s Mayor David Henderson reminded Brockvillians that had they stood at this very site 10 or 15 years ago, they would have seen a very different waterfront with vacant lots and industrial waste. He noted how there were lots of jokes about how long the program took to complete and “some of our discussion along the way,” but suggested, smiling broadly, “one of the lessons is, when we build the next one, we will know how to do it.” He congratulated the steering committee and all those involved.
Next was Gordon Brown who represents the Ontario riding of Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes for the Conservatives. He was involved in the project from the onset. He helped secure two grants; $25,000 to support a feasibility study and $38,000 for a business-implementation study. When the Finance Minister, the late Jim Flaherty, announced a major infrastructure program to help get Canada’s economy moving, Gord presented Brockville’s project to the infrastructure minister, John Baird, and together with the Provincial Government, a total funding of $11.4 million was secured.
Steve Clark the Progressive Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario representing the riding of Leeds—Grenville began his remarks reflecting on the wildfires presently raging in Alberta, explaining how the tragedy affected families across the country, including the Thousand Islands. He assisted over the years in giving wise counsel and suggested that there is truth to the adage “If you build it, they will come.” He is especially pleased that so many schools are taking advantage of learning about the history, culture and wildlife of the region.
The final speaker was Simon Fuller, the man with “the vision.” Simon spoke with emotion and passion. He explained the concept of showcasing not just the Aquatarium but allowing the exhibits to showcase all that is special and important to the Thousand Islands. For instance, he said, “there is a replica of the library from Singer Castle, complete with secret passages and a suit of armour. The bronze statue from the Frederick Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg is a reproduction of the one standing proudly in the oval office in Washington, DC, and you will also step aboard the steamship “Magedoma” and watch Clayton's Antique Boats “ pass by.”
At the conclusion of his remarks he expressed particular thanks to two individuals. The late Ben TeKamp, the mayor of Brockville who persuaded Simon to invest and build the Tall Ships Landing Condominium and the second individual is Ian Coristine. Simon thanked Ian for introducing him to the Thousand Islands, not only through his photographs but sharing Ian’s love of the River and his wish to showcase the region to the world.
Yes, the 27,000-square-foot Aquatarium with the mission to inspire curiosity is now officially open. We thank all speakers, representing the public and private sectors, for their role in helping to make the Aquatarium a reality, with its focus to build awareness and appreciation for the Thousand Islands region, on both sides of the River.
By Susan W. Smith, Editor TI Life. email@example.com