Misery Bay Visitors’ Centre opens new exhibit

An official opening of the Misery Bay visitor’s centre new world class exhibits was held on August 2. Taking part in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening is, left to right, MPP Michael Mantha, Pentti Palonen, deputy reeve of Burpee-Mills township, Lisa Addison of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Gaynor Orford of the Friends of Misery Bay (Fomb), MP Mark Serre, MP Carol Hughes and Ryan Gardner, parks superintendent with Ontario Parks. photo by Donald Harry Roberts

MISERY BAY—It was a who’s who event on Wednesday, August 2 at the Misery Bay Visitors Centre for the opening of the new world class exhibit that was initiated eight years ago and was nurtured through a two phase and five step plan. The camaraderie and excitement of the day was well defined by every speaker who took to the podium.

And it all began with a boisterous, heartfelt rendering of ‘O Canada’ by the dozens that attended the gala event.

Among the speakers, all of whom added their own mark to the moment were (in order of appearance), Special Projects Leader for the Friends of Misery Bay (FOMB) and master of ceremonies, John Diebolt, Ryan Gardner, Parks Superintendent with Ontario Parks, Mark Serre, Nickel Belt MP, Carol Hughes MP for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha, Lisa Addison of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and Pentti Palonen, deputy reeve of Burpee-Mills Township.

Phase one of the exhibit display project was made possible by a partnership involving FOMB, Ontario Parks and Science North. It consisted of a 40-inch, multi-layer interactive viewing screen which allows the park’s visitors to enjoy part of the park simply by touching a screen.

Phase two, which was installed by Science North, is now complete and ready for visitors to enjoy and is accessible to everyone including handicapped visitors. This ultra-technological interpretive centre is a world-class exhibit.

With the interpretive centre fully functional visitors can enjoy a virtual tour of the park and plan what areas they would like to focus on. The exhibits, many of which are interactive, show the special features of this park, starting with the limestone pavement which is the basis of the rare alvar habitat, to the unusual wetlands and the forest. They cover the fascinating history of the limestone, with its origins over 400 million years ago in an ancient shallow sea, through last glacial age and the changing shores in what is now the Great Lakes, to the present-day species at risk that inhabit the park.

“Misery Bay on the surface does not have the wow factor of Niagara Falls or the Rocky Mountains; its more of a place someone has to slow down and feel what Misery Bay has to offer and let it come to you,” stated Mr. Diebolt.

Mr. Diebolt went on to thank the many contributors including FedNor Canada 150, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Ontario Parks, Smith Family Foundation, Lafarge Inc., Burpee-Mills Recreation Committee, Farquhar’s Dairy, Little Current Medical and Scott’s Veterinary Services. He said there were many more who have supported the project who wished to remain anonymous-but were none the less important to the success of the interpretive exhibition.

Ryan Gardner, parks superintendent who oversees four operating parks, praised the members of FOMB and the contributors of the new exhibits. He spoke of how well the community and parks system worked together to create a beautiful site for people to visit, enjoy and learn about natural Ontario.

Of the park and the effort of all in building the new exhibit Mark Serre said, “you can feel the passion.” He talked about how important it was for government agencies to support projects like FOMB had created.

Carol Hughes offered praise to FOMB and the government agencies that supported the project. She spoke of vision about building community and stated, “when it comes to Manitoulin Island, they always get things done.”

Lisa Addison gave an inspirational speech including congratulating the FOMB for acquiring their capital grant from the Trillium Foundation for the construction and installation of the interpretive exhibit at the Misery Bay Visitors Centre.

Ms. Addison, along with Mr. Mantha, then presented Gaynor Orford with a Trillium Foundation plaque.

Michael Mantha was enthusiastic about the importance of Misery Bay and what it means to Manitoulin Island. He gave praise to everyone that participated in the installation of the new exhibition. He summed up his speech with, “you can get lost in the wow factor here at the park.”

“Misery Bay and the new exhibits are remarkable achievements,” stated Mr. Palonen. He described the park as a learning tool about the nature and natural progress of the park as it changes over time. He was passionate about explaining that the whole thing about the park was not about preserving it in its present state but allowing it to change naturally.

No ceremony is complete without a ribbon cutting ceremony. Several of the speakers formed a line with Gaynor Orford, past chairperson of the FOMB board, cutting the ribbon. The applause at the moment the scissors snipped the ribbon was nothing less than thunderous- created by the enthusiastic crowd.

One theme all of the speakers mentioned is the fact that Misery Bay and the Visitor’s Centre is an ongoing project.

Will Kershaw, regional parks planner of Ontario Parks, said of the creation of the park and new exhibits that the dynamics are incredible and “we are not finished yet.”

“It’s really a mini Science North in the west end of Manitoulin Island,” said Ted Kilpatrick, FOMB chairperson. “The park is already a major attraction with its many trails, and the new exhibits make it a great destination even in inclement weather. Just as at Science North, the exhibits entertain and at the same time make learning fun. There’s something here to interest kids (and adults) at every age level.”