Big Lake woman starts Old School extension petition

Central Manitoulin Old School.

MINDEMOYA – An online petition, spearheaded by Big Lake’s Lynn Quesnel, is circulating on Manitoulin to see Central Manitoulin council grant the Mindemoya Old School Repurposing Committee an extension on its mandate, which is set to expire on November 30.

“The last remaining historic building in Mindemoya, Ontario, on picturesque Manitoulin Island will soon be gone,” the petition at Change.org states. “The beautiful old Continuation School, which will be 100 years old next year, will be demolished if the town council can’t be persuaded to change their decision at a meeting on October 17.”

“The Repurposing Committee has worked tirelessly to re-imagine what this historic building could contribute to the local community moving forward,” the petition preamble continues. “They will ask for an extension in order to find a viable use for this beautiful and structurally sound building. The building does need a new roof to allow time to search for uses and thanks to a very generous donation, the ability to install a roof is now a reality. This building could live on and flourish for future generations, but it won’t matter if council doesn’t grant the extension on October 17.”

“Every community needs to preserve its history.”

Ms. Quesnel told The Expositor that her 91-year-old mother attended the Old School, as she and her siblings did for elementary school.

When she first heard the idea of tearing the school down, it upset her greatly, Ms. Quesnel explained, noting that she’s been a strong member of the group dedicated to preserving the Old School since the beginning, largely behind the scenes.

“I was upset by the comments some of the councillors made,” Ms. Quesnel said, pointing in particular to the committee’s perceived ‘lack of movement’ over their two-year term.

Ms. Quesnel said that over that time, the committee, with the help of the municipality, was able to apply for and receive a grant—no small feat—and that these things take time.

“This is my first petition,” she admitted. “I had to get my kids to help me.”

Ms. Quesnel believes that the Old School can become a real attraction for Mindemoya. For six months of the year she lives in Collingwood. She explained that a few years ago there was a part of Collingwood that was a little run down and included a number of abandoned buildings, including a hotel. An industrious couple purchased the hotel and transformed it into a space filled with art galleries, a café, flower shop, office spaces and more.

“Now other people are drawn to the area and it’s become very trendy,” she added.

“The Old School is strong, structurally sound and while it needs a new roof, a generous benefactor has agreed to pay for it,” Ms. Quesnel continued. “Given time and more grants, people could come up with a lot of good ideas.”

Ms. Quesnel won’t be able to attend the October 17 meeting of council as she will be in British Columbia looking after grandchildren but hopes a member of the committee will present her petition in her stead.

To view the petition, visit change.org/p/municipality-of-

central-manitoulin-last-piece-of-local-history-to-be-demolished. As of press time Friday, 349 people have signed the petition.