The Rideau Lakes Heritage Advisory Committee is appointed by Council for the term of that Council to advise on heritage matters and promote greater heritage awareness in the Municipality. The committee is made up of volunteers from each ward and two councilor representatives.
One of the projects maintained by the committee is the Walking Tours, Driving Tours and Heritage Map. The Township Heritage Map has been updated and a large quantity printed. The Walking tours of, Elgin, Newboro, Portland, Delta and Chaffey's Lock and the Driving Tours of Morton to Crosby the Rideau Route, Crosby to Salem and South Elmsley are in the process of being updated. Printed copies are available at the Tourism Information Centers, local businesses and the Township Office free of charge. These tours and maps are available to visitors at the Brockville Visitors Kiosk, Thousand Island Visitors Center, Fort Henry Visitors Center and the Gananoque Tourism Center to interest people in traveling to see the Heritage Sites in Rideau Lakes. The printing of these brochures is paid for by the advertisers in each brochure and all of the research, writing and production is done by the volunteers on the Heritage Committee. Every house and site listed in these brochures has been researched in detail and the brochures actually are a historic document in themselves.
All of these brochures are available on the Township of Rideau Lakes Web Site. Anyone can print their own copies. See the Walking Tour listing in the Heritage Section. When the Heritage Page appears, scroll down to the listing for tours, click on the one you want to see and a copy of the brochure will appear along with a map of the route. You can also E-mail a copy of the tour to friends and relatives. Copies of the artwork of all the homes shown are available to each of the home owners by writing the Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee (MHAC) at the Township Office.
The Committee has for the past 4 years been researching and listing all of the heritage property in the Township. Although a heritage listing does not put any restriction on the alteration of a property, it does provide a working tool for the planning department. Identifying and listing cultural heritage properties on a register is a large task but an important part of heritage conservation. Municipalities in Ontario are currently developing plans for or are involved in the process of establishing a register. Chatham-Kent, for example, sent notification to all of the owners of property being considered for inclusion on their register. The notification included a comprehensive fact sheet about the property, answers to frequently asked questions and a space for submitting objections. After public consultation the Chatham-Kent Council passed their listing containing over 90% of the original list. The historical, architectural, and other information included in the register, however brief, can foster a pride of ownership and recognition of a property's place in the history and development of a community.
The MHAC has also been trying to establish family groups, Historical Societies and Genealogical organizations into caring for abandoned grave yards. There are cemeteries in the Township that have not been active since the late 1800s and no perpetual care was ever set up for their maintenance. In some cases, families are long gone and descendants need to be found. In other cases, descendants in the area need to be shown where cemeteries are, how to set up tax exemption donations and form committees and work parties. A list of these grave yards and the information on each headstone has been completed as a first step. Three abandoned grave yards are now under community groups and are being looked after. Two more are in the process of establishing how the groups may be able to set up a working program. With the number of abandoned cemeteries, this will be a long process that requires working inside the legislation passed by the Ontario Ministries of both Culture and Consumer Affairs.
There are other items such as the collection, digitizing and framing of heritage photographs that are an ongoing program. Sales of the publications that were produced for each of the previous townships, working with the planning department and providing heritage data to many organizations has increased the work load and the quantity of data and material that needs to be stored. We are lucky that we have so many expert volunteers to be able to continue these projects.