Norgoma has until spring to find a new home, council decides
M.S. Norgoma Museum ship
has until spring to find a new home. City council affirmed its decision Monday in a 7-6 recorded vote that the vessel must leave Bondar Marina to make way for three new slips and a renovation project.
Published on: September 24, 2018 | Last Updated: September 24, 2018 8:25 PM EDT
M.S. Norgoma in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., on Saturday, June 2, 2018. (BRIAN KELLY/THE SAULT STAR/POSTMEDIA NETWORK) SUNMEDIA
The clock is being reset for the M.S. Norgoma.
City council still wants to see the museum ship moved from the Bondar Marina, but proponents who are trying to drum up activities and make the museum self-sufficient have a little more time to find the vessel a new home.
Council passed a resolution permitting the M.S. Norgoma to remain at its current location until April 15, or as soon as ice conditions permit it to be moved. A final determination of the plan to move the vessel must be provided to city staff by Feb. 1.
The resolution was narrowly passed in a 7-6 recorded vote.
Council also reaffirmed its commitment that staff work with the St. Mary’s River Marine Centre Board to assist in finding a new location for the vessel, whether it be a permanent or temporary location, so as not to interfere with marina operations in the spring of 2019.
New staff for the St. Mary’s River Marine Centre have been unable to secure a new location for the M.S. Norgoma.
They’ve sought sites at Parks Canada, the Canadian Bushplane Museum Heritage Centre, the Valleycamp in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and the Conservation Authority. They are now expanding their search beyond the Sault Ste. Marie borders.
Other locations are also being contemplated, said deputy CAO Tom Vair, but he did not identify where.
Julia Piskiewicz, newest board member of the St. Mary’s River Marine Heritage Board, said the past year has brought a rejeuvination of the ship that has resulted in a record-breaking operating season.
She said that new exhibits, rentals and events, all contributed to this year’s success.
Piskiewicz said the board wants to remain in the city’s downtown core and within the cultural corridor to continue its operations.
Ward 2 Coun. Susan Myers cautioned city council to use “wisdom” when making a decision.
She suggested moving the heritage museum was not wise, especially since its removal will only result in three new slips for boats.
Experience, knowledge and good judgment, should be used by council when deciding whether the Norgoma should be moved or not. She also cautioned council not be stuck on its past decision given the recent changes that have been made.
But Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Shoemaker countered that the board has had ample time to make the museum work, and it hasn’t been successful.
“I don’t see the success on the ship based on what I’m reading,” he said.
“I fail to see how giving it one more year would achieve more than it has at this point.”
The new board of directors of the St. Mary’s River Marine Heritage Centre has taken over the operations have injected new life in the project. A new long-term strategic plan was developed with the assistance of NORDIK and a number of revenue generating events and fundraisers have occurred on board throughout the summer.
Events and visitor numbers are on the rise with just more than 5,100 people aboard the ship this season.
It’s estimated that number could grow another 1,500 with booking requests.
Eleven students were employed for the summer on the ship.
Requests for venue rentals and ship usage throughout September are also up and include weddings, music events, art shows, birthday parties and film production requests, among other things.
In 2017, statistics show 5,800 people visited the ship, up slightly from the previous two years.
The M.S. Norgoma has also joined the Ontario Museum Association as an institutional member, and has been working with the regional museum network for Algoma, the North Shore Cultural Attractions Network.
The M.S. Norgoma was acquired by the city in 1975 and has been located at the Roberta Bondar Marina since 1994.
The 185-foot-long vessel served as a means of transportation between Owen Sound, Ont., and Sault Ste. Marie and a car ferry between Tobermory and South Maymouth. It’s considered one of the last surviving ships from that era.
For many years now, the Norgoma, which serves as a ship museum in the city’s downtown waterfront, has struggled to survive.
Feasibility studies completed as early as 2000 and 2001 suggested that the Norgoma be relocated.
In the fall of 2011, Parks Canada unveiled a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque at Roberta Bondar Park, adjacent to the Norgoma, commemorating the passenger and packet freighters on the Upper Great Lakes as a National Historic Event.
Those in favour of the resolution to move the ship in the spring include Mayor Christian Provenzano and councillors Steve Butland, Paul Christian, Shoemaker, Judy Hupponen, Rick Niro and Marchy Bruni.
Councillors voting against the resolution included Myers, Sandra Hollingsworth, Lou Turco, Frank Fata, Joe Krmpotich and Ozzie Grandinetti.