open house

Largest crowd ever attends Vintage Bicycle Show



By Ron Giofu


Approximately seven years ago upon returning from a vintage bicycle show in Brantford, Mark and Cori McGuire were sitting on their back patio and decided to have one themselves.

The McGuires held their sixth annual Southern Ontario Vintage Bicycle Open House at their Concession 6 North home Sunday afternoon. Cori said they regularly attend a show in Brantford and brought the idea to Amherstburg.

“Mark said we could do this here,” recalled Cori.

Cori and Mark McGuire welcomed the public to their Concession 6 North home Aug. 26 for the Southern Ontario Vintage Bicycle Open House.

The McGuires are collectors of antique bicycles with other collectors coming to the property to display their bicycles and bicycle-related wares.

“It’s growing every year,” Mark said of the show.

Cori said they attended a “Pedals and Props” show in June at Windsor Airport where Mark was able to tie in the history of bicycles with the history of the airplane. Bicycles used during the two world wars were also discussed with Cori noting that people had to have a permit to have a bicycle during World War II due to metal being precious during the conflict.

Mark will also be at Fort Malden National Historic Site next month for a display during a re-enactment weekend in September.

“We do it for fun,” Mark said of the show. “There ares no rules but you have to have fun.”

Isaac and Joshua Frias of Kingsville take a look at some of the bicycles on display at the Southern Ontario Vintage Bicycle Open House Aug. 26.

Jody and Bonnie Varecy host Jamie and Ann McGregor’s show in Brantford. Jody said they try and return the support shown by the McGuire family.

“The McGuires are valued contributors to the Brantford show,” explained Jody. “We try to attend their show whenever we can.”

Jody added that “Jamie and Mark go back a long way” and that the couples are also long-time bicycle collectors.

“We come down to enjoy their hospitality the way they like to enjoy ours,” he said. “This is a first class event.”

Rick Frias and his family came from Kingsville. While noting he isn’t a bicycle collector, he said they wanted to show their support to their friends.

“Mark is a great guy,” he said. “They have an amazing passion. This (show) is remarkable. It really is.”

Villanova welcomes prospective students at Grade 8 open house



By Ron Giofu


Grade 8 students from the area got a chance to see what St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School has to offer last week.

The Catholic high school hosted its Grade 8 open house last Thursday night with students from their feeder schools as well as other elementary schools in the area getting a chance to tour the halls and hear what programs are available.

“St. Thomas of Villanova is a school like no other,” said principal Amy Facchineri.

Facchineri touted the school’s slogan – “Excellence in Heart, Mind and Body” – and said students could look forward to being part of a friendly, welcoming school community. She said she is proud of how socially minded and active in the community the students are. About 150 students volunteered for the open house with very little effort needed to recruit them, she noted.

“The kids love the school,” she said.

Cosmetology students Sabrina Colussi and Madison Street demonstrate their skills during St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School’s recent Grade 8 open house.

Facchineri also promoted the academics at Villanova, noting that Grade 9 EQAO math scores exceeded the averages of the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board as well as other area school boards. Villanova saw pass rates of 65 per cent in the applied category and 93 per cent in the academic category.

Literacy scores were also promoted, with Villanova having an 88 per cent pass rate for first-time eligible students.

“Other boards in the area aren’t quite reaching the standards we are,” Facchineri stated.

She added: “Last year, just under 80 per cent of Grade 9 students earned honour roll status” and that graduates earned about $500,000 in scholarships.

Patti Weir, chair of Villanova’s Catholic school parent council, said there is a connection between parents, teachers and students.

“There is a place for every child in this school,” she said.

Students don’t disperse as quickly at lunch or after school, Weir added, due to its location.

“When your children come here, they are here the whole day,” she told the packed auditorium. “They spend time with each other.”

Lydia Manchurek, student council prime minister, said the students help each other as well.

“There’s so many opportunities,” said Manchurek. “You really can’t go wrong.”

Ramsay, Natyshak hold Christmas open house



By Ron Giofu


Everyone from community leaders to the general public shared the Christmas spirit with the area’s two elected officials from the upper tiers of government.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey and Essex MPP Taras Natyshak co-hosted a Christmas open house at Ramsey’s office with the New Democrats looking back on 2017 as well as ahead to 2018.

Natyshak said he was able to achieve some legislative highlights provincially, including the bill he tabled to assist flooding victims in the county. Not only does that bill try and take measures to tackle the issue of flooding, but it also helps protect flooding victims from poor treatment from insurance companies.

“That’s something I was pretty proud to have passed,” he said.

Legislation regarding the extension of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for first responders was another achievement. Natyshak pointed out that work involved probation and parole officers, police services and now also includes bailiffs and special constables. Should they suffer from PTSD, it would be presumed they acquired it on the job. Natyshak notes that bailiffs, special constables and those in similar positions often see “horrific scenes” in the duties they are performing for the public and need their mental health needs looked after as well.

Natyshak, first elected in 2011, said just being able to help people is one of the highlights of the job.

“The joy is just being able to serve every day on behalf of the people of Essex,” said Natyshak. “The ability to help individuals is always going to be a powerful and special thing.”

Windsor-Essex County is “the best place in Canada to live,” he believed, and “the reason it is the best is because of the people who live here.

“I’m just so proud to be a part of the community and to represent this community,” he said.

2018 is an provincial election year but aside from that, Natyshak said the area’s economic metrics are improving.

“I think the sky is the limit for this community,” he said.

The vision remains to have quality education, health care and infrastructure and Natyshak believes those can be accomplished by working together.

“There are many highlights for 2017,” stated Ramsey.

The first item she mentioned was being able to bring new federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to the area. One of his recent stops was at an agricultural facility, and Ramsey said agriculture is another one of her highlights for 2017.

“I’m proud of the relationships I’ve built with the agricultural community,” said Ramsey, noting she toured several facilities and farms earlier this year with Natyshak.

Ramsey said she is also proud of the work she has done helping seniors and working with her team to find solutions for their issues. She noted the NDP has a national pharmacare motion tabled in the House of Commons and she is proud of that as well.

Seniors have difficult choices to make, including whether they can afford medical needs such as prescriptions. Dental care for seniors is another issue she wants to work towards.

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak and Essex MP Tracey Ramsey co-hosted a Christmas open house at Ramsey’s office in Essex. The two NDP representatives have offices side-by-side.

Health of the Great Lakes is another file she has worked on and will continue to work on. Ramsey noted there was a tri-level meeting in her office this year on the issue and the work continues to find solutions to such issues as algae blooms and overall health of the lakes.

“Our communities are surrounded by water.”

The re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is something the NDP is carefully watching closely as well, Ramsey noted, adding that she has been sharing the area’s concerns as well as hearing the concerns of others during trips to Mexico and Washington. She said the United States has taken positions that Canada can’t accept but hopes the end result can still be one that is better than the current free trade agreement.

The current agreement doesn’t do enough to protect the environment or working people, she said.

“We’re pushing for a better NAFTA because there are flaws in the agreement that need to be fixed,” said Ramsey.

Ramsey added that she is watching the NAFTA negotiations for things that are important to local residents as well including issues that may impact the flow of people and goods across the border.

The other major highlight for Ramsey was going around the area for Canada 150 celebrations. Whether it was in Amherstburg or elsewhere in the county, Ramsey said she enjoyed seeing how the region celebrated the nation’s 150th birthday

Parks Master Plan subject of open houses



By Ron Giofu


The town is taking a closer look at its parks system and went out into the community to see what residents want.

The town and planners from the firm Monteith Brown Planning Consultants (MBPC) held a pair of open houses with regard to a new Parks Master Plan last Thursday with one being at Amherstburg Fire Station No. 2 in the afternoon and the other at the Libro Centre that night. Joannah Campbell, a recreation and parks planner with MBPC, said the plan will be for a ten-year period and deal with parks, open spaces and trails.

Campbell said data has been collected on all town recreational space with visits also having been made to each park. They have been looking at usage and growth forecasts as well with meetings with stakeholders and user groups also planned.

“We will review the data and come up with a draft plan,” she said. “We hope to have the draft plan ready in early 2018.”

Another open house would be scheduled around that time, Campbell added, and the community would again be invited to give their input on what they would like to see in Amherstburg’s park system. Some parks could be refreshed while other uses could be changed or added, she noted.

“We want to animate space,” said Campbell, adding they would like to see people active and out in the community.

Paul Hertel and Gord Freeman discuss elements of the proposed parks master plan with consultant Joannah Campbell last Thursday night.

CAO John Miceli said the open house was to see what the community wants in its parks. He pointed out that there has been a lot of change in the parks industry and that the town wants to have parks that reflect the wishes and wants of the residents.

“We have a significant amount of parkland,” he noted.

The Parks Master Plan could identify new uses for parks or the creation of new parks, such as a dog park, Miceli indicated. Residents could also say they like the uses of the parks as they are now.

“It’s going to be driven by the whole community,” said Miceli. “There’s so many things we need to look at.”

While seed money could be part of the 2018 budget, the town would be looking to start building a capital budget for parks in 2019. Much of the implementation of the plan’s recommendations would likely be in 2019.

“Once we know what the community wants, we are going to plan accordingly,” said Miceli. “We need them to participate. We want to get it right. It’s a long term plan for the town.”

There is also an online survey people can fill out to give feedback on town parks. People can visit Hard copies of the survey can be picked up at the Libro Centre or at town hall. The survey runs through Nov. 6.

Community Improvement Plan, Urban Design Guidelines to be subject of open house



By Ron Giofu


Now that town council has authorized the development of a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) and urban design guidelines, administration is moving ahead with those efforts.

An open house is planned for Oct. 30 at the Libro Centre with sessions planned for 3-5 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. The town stated that the purpose of these two plans is to assist the municipality with enhancing Amherstburg’s downtown core and commercial area “through a variety of planning, incentive and design strategies.”

One of the main drivers of the Community Improvement Plan is to provide a program for attracting overnight accommodations in the commercial area of the town. Town council authorized administration to move forward in August.

A Community Improvement Plan is described as “a tool that will support and provide incentives for sustainable revitalization and heritage conservation within the downtown and commercial areas of town” while “Urban Design Guidelines with a heritage theme will work in conjunction with the Community Improvement Plan as it relates to incentives for commercial façade improvements. These documents will assist in guiding the evolution of the urban fabric of the town in terms of commercial developments and streetscapes.”

Manager of planning services Rebecca Belanger said town council approved the initiative and Monteith Brown Planning Consultants awarded the contracts for both projects.

“The purpose of the open house is for the public to meet the consultants, have them introduce the study and hear people’s ideas on the project,” said Belanger.

Belanger said “it’s very preliminary at this point” and that past documents on heritage districts and similar studies will be incorporated into this project.

“There’s a lot of background work that was done in the past,” she said.

Noting it is a “multi-phase program,” Belanger also noted the CIP is designed to attract overnight accommodations to Amherstburg while the Urban Design Guidelines are geared towards incentives for façade improvements and infilling opportunities downtown as well. She said the programs will help support the town’s business community and enhance built heritage.

Speaking specifically of the CIP, Belanger said possibilities include setting up grant or loan programs for interested developers and offering relief on fees.

“It may be multi-tiered depending on what is proposed,” said Belanger.

There will be a lot of consultation throughout the process, Belanger added, and it will also be placed on the recently-launched “Talk the Burg” website as well.

“The CIP will provide a business friendly program that the Town of Amherstburg will offer to businesses to support the competitive market for the attraction of overnight accommodations and business façade improvements” says Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.