Manager’s Report (summer 2016)
by David O’Hara, Site Manager
After beginning our 2016 event season with Field Trip and the Indigenous Arts Festival, we moved on to Taste of Toronto, Lakeshore Ribfest, Panorama, TIME, Vegan Fest, Mad Decent Block Party, One Walk to Conquer Cancer, Toronto Urban Roots Festival (TURF), the Sick Kids Great Camp Adventure, On Common Ground, and many more events–big and small.
Once again one of the highlights of our summer program was First World War Comes to Life, curated by the Victoria County Historical Society and funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage and Veterans Affairs. The fully-animated exhibit provided an opportunity to explore the wartime contributions of Canadian men and women who served beyond the trenches, both at home and overseas. It also provided an opportunity to profile Toronto's Great War Attic. For more information on the Great War Attic and to view the documentaries, visit www.toronto.ca/ww1
The Fort York Guard provided another summer highlight when they returned from Fort George in August having won the annual drill competition at the Soldiers’ Field Day– congratulations to all involved!
Moving into autumn, we're very pleased to now have the exhibits within the Visitor Centre complete and open. Aside from some finishing touches to lighting and a few additional artifacts to be installed, the new orientation film and theatre, the Exhibit Gallery, Vault, and the immersive Time Tunnel are now all open and accessible to the public.
Work on the Gardiner Expressway deck reconstruction, which has severely constrained access to Fort York over the last year, is expected to be complete at the end of October. Restoration of the Garrison Common, which will include the removal of the gravel parking lot, will also occur in October. Removal of the parking lot will return a significant portion of the original Common to open space, allowing for a more coherent visitor experience from Visitor Centre to Common to Fort. Henceforth visitors will be required to park in front of the Visitor Centre or at the corner of Fleet Street and Strachan Avenue to access the site. Additional improvements to these parking areas, including better connections between them, will be implemented in early 2017 as part of The Bentway.
Construction is well underway on the Fort York pedestrian and bicycle bridges. Dufferin Construction finished driving twenty- three piles for the Fort York landing in mid- September. Fabrication of the actual bridges will be completed off-site and delivered for installation at some point in 2017. The Bentway–formerly known as Project: Under Gardiner, continues to move along with Fort York staff heavily involved. The first phases of work planned for The Bentway will land directly within the National Historic Site from Strachan Avenue east along the Visitor Centre frontage. The delivery of a first phase for July of 2017 will include completion of the Visitor Centre parking lot, the 'Events Dock' (the boardwalk extending across the Visitor Centre frontage), and other landscape improvements. Fort York staff will also continue to collaborate with those working on the establishment of The Bentway Conservancy on issues related to programming, operations, and maintenance.
On the staffing front, we're pleased to welcome Kristine Williamson to the role of Supervisor, Special Events at Fort York. Since joining the fort in 2011 as Museum Outreach Officer, Kristine has worked to strengthen the site's ties to the community and its place as a hub of cultural activity and engagement for residents and visitors alike. We're also delighted to announce that Melissa Beynon is our new full- time Program Officer. Melissa has been with the city museums for fourteen years, in a number of roles, and brings a wealth of experience to the site.
While 2016 shows no signs of slowing down, we do continue to plan for 2017, which certainly promises to be an even busier year.