Fears persist over the future of the S.S. Keewatin
PORT MCNICOLL, ONT. -- The S.S. Keewatin is tied to the dock in Port McNicoll, where volunteers have spent countless hours restoring it since it arrived back at its home port eight years ago.
But Fred Addis, Friends of the Keewatin, said the group now fears the ship's owner, Skyline Investments, plans to move it to Kingston.
"The volunteers have expended hundreds of thousands of hours to bring this ship up to stellar condition from a museum attraction perspective.
It's their sweat. It's their labour that have done this, and we don't see any reason why the owner should take advantage of that and pull the ship out of our community," Addis said.
Skyline Investments has been trying to sell its development lands surrounding the harbour at Port McNicoll.
The S.S. Keewatin is the last of its kind and has been operating as a tourist attraction.
Tay Township Mayor Ted Walker said it would be a disappointment to see the ship leave.
"We are certainly hopeful it can remain in Tay Township. We're not the owner of the ship, so we have some restrictions on what we can do," Walker said.
Meanwhile, Skyline is keeping relatively quiet about plans behind the scenes, but the ship's future may depend on the outcome of an application to Heritage Canada to have it designated as cultural property, which would allow for certain tax writeoffs.
The Great Lakes Marine Museum in Kingston has an application in the works, while another application by Friends of the Keewatin was unsuccessful.
Skyline's CEO Blake Lyon said, "We need to respect the process of Heritage Canada and let their process play out."
Friends of the Keewatin are dejected, insisting the ship's history and story need to remain in Port McNicoll.
"It's based here. It's rooted here, and because of a tax technicality, the owners want to take it away from us," Addis said.