News Local

Heritage storyboard for French's?

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

ROBERTA BELL/THE PACKET & TIMES
Tim French and Jody Gross, the grandchildren of George French, who opened French's stand 95 years ago, are pictured in front of the stand at Couchiching Beach Park in this file photo.

ROBERTA BELL/THE PACKET & TIMES Tim French and Jody Gross, the grandchildren of George French, who opened French's stand 95 years ago, are pictured in front of the stand at Couchiching Beach Park in this file photo.

An Orillia landmark for more than 95 years will have its history honoured in the near future.

This week, council committee recommended placing a heritage storyboard that depicts the history of French's Refreshment Booth on the shores of Lake Couchiching.

The interpretive sign will highlight details of a consultant's report from when council was considering a heritage designation for the stand, as well as additional information related to local lore surrounding a willow tree recently taken down for safety reasons.

"This storyboard, we want it to be one part of a larger plan," said Coun. Jeff Clark. "We hope to have continuing storyboards telling the story of the waterfront."

That plan would spread out over the next five years at strategic locations along the waterfront. Just like the sign for French's, those locations would be determined once the future of Centennial Drive is finalized.

What didn't come up as part of the staff report discussed by committee was designating French's stand as a heritage building. The designation has come up before council twice, once when it was defeated in 2012 and again last year, when it was deferred.

The main reason for the delay involves the future revitalization of the Orillia waterfront, which may include the realignment of Centennial Drive. If the road is moved, French's may be forced from the only home its ever known, the mustard yellow and ketchup red wood structure built by George French in 1920.

"As a heritage committee we're very excited about that, but we want to wait until that environmental assessment is completed and there's been public consultation about... if, in fact, the road does move," Clark said. "We don't want to be moving French's stand around."

Neither does the French family.

"It wouldn't move. It couldn't move," said Jody Gross, granddaughter of George French, the stand's founder. She told the Packet & Times previously, when the issue of providing the stand with a heritage designation was up for debate at council, that while the wood is in good shape, it has shifted with the land over time and the structure would collapse if uprooted.

The recommended motion from committee funds the storyboard over two budget years. The design, development and printing of the storyboard will be paid for from the municipal heritage committee's 2016 budget. The installation will be undertaken with 2017 funding.

While 2017 funding hasn't been determined yet, chief financial officer Bob Ripley reminded councillors the heritage committee has successfully received funding through the city budget over the past number of years.

The matter will come up for council ratification at Monday's meeting.

pbales@postmedia.com

twitter.com/patrickbales



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