Friends of the Norisle deserve a chance to rescue this gem of the Great Lakes

A call for council to settle the case and turn this piece of history over to those who would save it

To the Expositor:

The Assiginack council does need to settle out of court for this ridiculous case involving the S.S. Norisle. The community has had this vessel for well over four decades and tried its best to make it a gem for Manitowaning. They’ve had their chance, and it’s time to pass the torch to a group that is willing to make a piece of history steam the lakes once again.

The Friends of the Norisle were formed over 10 years ago with the dream to do something that seemed impossible at the time. John Coulter expressed interest in the project and stated that it would be possible to restore and eventually sail the old ship once again.

John Coulter is no stranger to steam vessel restoration and he knows his stuff. He is one man that had a huge hand in the success of the steamers that are currently operating in Muskoka.

When Assiginack council was approached by the Friends of the Norisle in 2007, the council was all in agreement with what the plans lay ahead for the Norisle.

From The Expositor dated April 4, 2007:

“In a motion passed at last Tuesday’s regular meeting of council, the township pledged to “support the Friends of the Norisle committee, in principle, in its attempts to restore the Norisle,” As well, the municipality endorsed the committee’s efforts to “secure outside funding” for their preservation cause.”

According to this article, the council was 100 percent in favour of what the Friends of the Norisle wanted to accomplish. Then this happens.

From the Expositor dated June 27, 2007:

“During last Tuesday’s regular meeting of Assiginack council, the meeting ended in an in-camera discussion regarding the “security” of the municipality. Upon follow-up, Alton Hobbs, clerk-treasurer of the municipality, explained that a citizen had come forward with the concern that there may be exposed asbestos on the vessel, putting the group Friends of the Norisle and others at risk.”

A concerned citizen, or a citizen that knew about the asbestos on the Norisle and was intentionally trying to put a stop to the group’s success?

There are many articles on about the ship and the progress of the group. The asbestos was removed with the help of an environmental firm, and steam generators were removed, restored according to the articles on the site that were published by The Expositor. In one article a comment:

In the case of the Norisle, the engines are in far better shape than the ship’s age might suggest. “The vessel is 60-years-old in calendar years, but in terms of functional service, these parts are only 13-years-old,” said Mr. Coulter.

The Assiginack council obviously saw the vision and dedication of this group. What stopped them? Did they try and sell the Norisle to be scuttled for scuba entertainment in order to put money in the bank?

There is something suspicious going on, and I really don’t think that council wanted the group to succeed from the beginning. They seem to no longer want the Norisle.

It’s time to give it up, Assiginack. Settle and give the group this piece of history, and they will remove it for you I’m sure with the intention of making it a success.

Thanks to Mike White of Manitowaning for writing his piece to the editor in December and inspiring me to write mine.


Cassandra Szepanski