New Heritage and Conservation Centre at John R. Park Homestead celebrates grand opening

Grand Opening of the new Heritage and Conservation Centre at John R. Park Homestead in Essex, Ont. on Friday, July 2, 2021. (courtesy Essex Region Conservation Authority)

John R. Park Homestead Conservation Area celebrated the grand opening of its new Heritage and Conservation Centre aimed at enhancing education and cultural experiences for visitors.

A small group gathered Friday to celebrate the new centre which includes the Stephanie and Barry Zekelman Foundation Welcome Centre. The centre hosts the Town of Essex Tourism Hub which serves as “a tourism conduit for the region.”

The Stephanie and Barry Zekelman Foundation Creative Commons is the centre’s main indoor teaching space, a news release from the Essex Region Conservation Authority says. The new space can offer three times the site’s current teaching capacity and offers a space to use speciality equipment such as microscopes, light tables and scientific specimens.

The creative commons also offer an exhibit area for educational displays and sensitive historical artifacts in a climate-controlled environment. The commons will be used to “interpret the western basin of Lake Erie and the significance of the natural coastal processes on our local environments,” ERCA says.

Another addition is the Toldo Foundation Outdoor Classroom and Wildlife Viewing Area for visitors to take in the historic buildings, heritage gardens and orchard with the “best vantage point of the western basin of Lake Erie.”

A number of conservation features have been added to the centre including an energy efficient lighting system made possible with a grant from Farm Credit Canada. The area will also function of a centralized location for flood forecasting.

A $600,000 grant from the Canadian Experiences Fund and support from donors totally nearly $775,000 contributed to the new centre.

The John. R. Park Homestead Conservation Area Heritage and Conservation Centre will be open to guests Tuesday through Friday form 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the summer months.