It was a crisp and cold November afternoon in 2006 when my wife and I crossed the
Ambassador Bridge into Ontario heading for a week in St. Thomas with the intention
of possibly immigrating to Canada in the future. We had both just retired and had
family ties in Canada. As we were driving on Hwy. 3 heading into St. Thomas, we
saw the Ford factory on the left just as it was turning dark and beginning to snow.
It was ironic that my Uncle Larry had designed the assembly line for this plant
in 1967 and I thought of him as we passed by. As a retired Ford dealer and loan
officer, I felt a tug at my heart. We arrived on Talbot Street at dark. We made
a right on Hinks St. and noticed children playing in their yard. This was unheard
of in our country. At the corner of Hinks and Wellington, I looked left and saw
the Knox Presbyterian Church. I looked at my wife and said,"Honey, we're home".
We drove to the Ramada Inn and saw young people sitting at a park bench laughing
and having a good time in the snow. We checked in and the restaurant stayed open
for us. This was our first taste of Canadian hospitality. After settling in and
touring St. Thomas the next morning, we went to the Elgin Mall and I purchased a
cell phone which I still have today. A very nice real estate lady approached us
and invited us to tour homes in St. Thomas and Port Stanley. We looked at homes
that week in St. Thomas and then we were invited to her home at the top of Brayside
Drive on the cliffs overlooking Port Stanley. That was the very day my wife and
I fell in love with Port Stanley. It was not quite the beautiful Port Stanley of
today. It was largely a commercial fishing village. They were very few businesses,
maybe four major restaurants and the roads and sidewalks were in terrible shape.
The town looked neglected and lonely.
Having experience as a real estate broker, I realized the possibilities of Port
Stanley becoming a reborn destination community because of the lake shore and the
beaches. Unbeknownst to us, Port Stanley had been a destination community since
1926 when the Stanley Beach Casino was built. Every summer, thousands of people
drove to the beach, the casino and eventually the Stork Club. Edith Cavell Blvd.
was a very, very busy place, hence the term "quaint and modest" never applied to
Port Stanley. It was always a prosperous, bustling destination for thousands every
summer weekend. This is the reason and the only reason that Port Stanley has succeeded.
In the year 1833, the harbour at Port launched the first steamship round-trip visit
to Buffalo, N.Y. In 1840, the commercial fishing enterprises were established. The
commercial habour had numerous cruise boats on Lake Erie between the '30's and '50'
providing a stable and vigorous economy for the Port residents.
Circa 2008, a retired military man and numerous Port residents formed the Village
Association. It so happened that one of this military officer's last government
assignments was on the Privy Council of the liberal government of Jean Chretien
in Ottawa. He also served as a temporary six month replacement for the Foreign Policy
Advisor to the Prime Minister. This man now serves as a Ward 1 Councilor, Central
Elgin. His knowledge of government regulations has helped Port Stanley to secure
the habour and funds for its development. The current Central Elgin Council has
many highly educated and knowledgeable members and has done a stellar job for the
last eight years.
The key to Port Stanley's future is planned growth. Single family homes off of George
St. and East Road will provide young to middle aged families opportunities to live
in and enjoy. Port Stanley. Schools will benefit and increased tax revenue from
over 350 homes will put Port in a viable financial position. If it stops growing,
the community will run the risk of financial decline and possible bankruptcy. The
reason this statement is so strongly worded is the fact that the habour by federal
law has to be dredged approximately every four to five years at a cost to the village
of $2,000,000 from its tax revenues. This action has to happen for ecological reasons
in order to prevent Kettle Creek from flooding and becoming polluted.
Port Stanley has some serious problems that need to be addressed by planned growth.
There are no year round rental properties available that aren't at least 50 years
old and at this time, none are available. It took us two years to find a rental
that had to be almost totally renovated to code largely at our expense. It cost
thousands of dollars and due to its location, we had to leave last year. We are
now going to live in St. Thomas half the year and wait anxiously for the two new
apartment buildings that will be built off George St. After a lengthy conversation
with local officials, I found out that none of the local workers in the businesses
can afford to live in Port, except very few who have been here for years. There
is a dire need for reasonable new housing for the average person, families and seniors.
On this score, Port Stanley comes up with a zero. The average rental for a summer
cottage is $750.00 a week.
We believe the current Council and Mayor are on the right track. They are highly
educated and experienced and have seen Port Stanley through tough times and are
dedicated to planned expansion of single family housing and rental apartments. They
have acted in the most professional manner possible and are under extreme pressure
to bring Port back to its days of being the finest destination town by the Lake.
In regard to the job the Council has been doing, in the words of Bert Lance, "If
it ain't broke, don't fix it".