Champlain LegacyA man dressed as French explorer Samuel de Champlain introduces speakers during the announcement of $2.8 million in funding for the legacy park in Penetanguishene.

Well, a man dressed as Champlain, anyway.

The historical re-enactor was dressed in full 1600s-themed clothing and had long, brown hair tucked under a wide-brimmed hat with an orange feather. He spoke animatedly in French to a crowd of about 50 people at Rotary Park, the future site of the legacy park.

“Champlain would like to say he is very excited to be here almost 400 years to the day (he first arrived),” said a translator.

The $2.8 million in funding came equally from the provincial and federal governments. The legacy park will be unveiled at this summer’s Rendez-Vouz Champlain event in Penetanguishene.

“The yellow bulldozers are sitting in the wings and, when this is over, a beehive of activity is about to commence,” said Mayor Gerry Marshall. “The investment of this type of money from the government into our communities will provide an economic lift … that will be felt for years to come.”

 Champlain Legacy 2

The park will feature a playground, amphitheatre, trails, lookouts, arboretum and 14 pieces of artwork, including nine statues of historical figures.

Rendez-Vouz Champlain is scheduled for July 31 to Aug. 2, but only some sections of the park will be completed by then.

During his speech, Marshall thanked David Dupuis and Anne Gagne, who were both members of the festival’s committee until resigning in March with complaints of being squeezed out of the planning process.

“A group of citizens led by Dave Dupuis and Anne Gagne … worked tirelessly promoting this concept. We thank them deeply for their unwavering support,” Marshall said.

The mayor also thanked Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton for his help acquiring federal funds. The event received $500,000 from the Department of Canadian Heritage.

The project also got $149,200 from an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant and an additional $1.95 million from the province.

Stanton said the park will help “pay tribute to the remarkable beginnings of this community and its learnings and sharings with the proud indigenous people of this land.”

He and Madeleine Meilleur, Ontario’s minister responsible for francophone affairs, formally announced the funding. Meilleur also commented on the area’s French, English and First Nations heritage.

She said the park is a “sacred symbol” of the struggle of the Wendat people in the last 400 years.  

It will be a place where “English, French and First Nations can feel at home.

Originally published in the Midland Mirror by Jenni Dunning

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