On February 4 members of Madawaska Valley Council heard from the volunteer group that stepped up to revitalize the Barry’s Bay Railway Station last year. Speaking in a Council chamber crowded with Station Keeper members, their President, Joanne Olsen, (pictured above) told Council her update after ten months into their agreement with MV would include good and “not so good” news. She acknowledged support from MV staff and Council, as well as members of the local community. She also noted the group “faced some unexpected problems that need to be addressed in a timely manner if the Station Keepers Agreement with the Township is to continue.”
Olsen noted a number of situations that deserve special attention including:
- The 125-year-old Station building is not receiving the respect or attention it requires, either by visitors or by MV. Station Keepers have “grave concerns about Facility Management.” (She pointed out that visitors often were unaware that it was an original building and volunteers were disappointed to discover local school children did not know what or where it was.)
- Washroom facilities were plagued with problems all summer as tourists used “the ONE and only public toilet in the main street corridor.”
- Summer students trained by the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association were not always aware of local businesses and attractions in Madawaska Valley that they could promote.
Despite these and other issues, Olsen confirmed the Station Keepers general membership has agreed to establish a new memorandum of agreement with the Township for a term of one year, to be re-evaluated annually. (The existing agreement will be a year old on April 2nd but has no term.) The group suggests a new tourist information management strategy where their volunteer membership assists in training the summer staff. They also propose that before the new agreement expires in April 2021, the Township builds additional accessible public washrooms on the Main Street corridor. Finally, to address many of the concerns they have identified, the Station Keepers offer to enter into a joint facilities management mechanism with the Township in order to evaluate and ensure proper maintenance for the structural integrity of the Station and allied facilities in Station Park; i.e. Water Tower and Caboose.
Having delivered the “not so good” news along with some suggested solutions, Olsen presented MV Council with an expansive list of new initiatives for 2020 including the “Month of Sundays” events launched recently. She said they have achieved membership of nearly 100 so far and through fundraising have covered their programming expenses. They have formed four Committees and actively seek volunteers to help with marketing, membership, grants and exhibitions.
The presentation met with general support from members of Council. Mayor Love expressed appreciation of the weekly Spareboard newsletters. CAO Sue Klatt said she hoped to meet with Station Keepers to review the itemized list of responsibilities and other areas that would need to be incorporated into an updated memorandum.