St. Marys Journal Argus
One was described by Councillor Tony Winter as “the most unusual presentation” ever heard by Town Council. The other was praised by Councillor Stephen McCotter for providing “insightful comments.”
Each chose very different ways to deliver a similar message, but one thing was for sure: St. Marys Quarry high diving board supporters Barry Brebner and Ernie Vanderschot both left strong impressions at a Council meeting Tuesday, April 22.
“Maybe St. Marys should invite (federal Liberal leader) Justin Trudeau to come and jump off the high dive, just as his father did many years ago,” suggested Vanderschot, who told councillors he has been swimming at the Quarry for 49 years. “That would be great for tourism in St. Marys.”
Without the high diving board, Vanderschot argued, the town loses one of the attractions that bring visitors to St. Marys. It’s a big reason why his own children and grandchildren, living across Ontario and beyond, look forward to their visits to the area.
“They always said they liked swimming (at the Quarry) more than any other place,” he said . . . “Until last year,” when the high dive was roped off following a recommendation from the Lifesaving Society of Canada to discontinue its use until upgrades can be made.
Vanderschot called on Council to consider the positive effects on young people of what he called “healthy challenges” such as getting up the courage to throw themselves off the high dive. He said agreeing to the Lifesaving Society recommendation is another example of civic leaders being “overcautious,” and represents the loss of the type of meaningful activity that, according to some studies, help counter the rising incidence of anxiety and depression among young people.
McCotter, who has publicly stated his support for bringing the high dive back into service, thanked Vanderschot for his presentation. The councillor recalled his own trips to the Quarry as a youngster — “creeping out to the edge (of the diving board) and looking down at the rocks and thinking, ‘it’s okay. I’m not going to land there. I’m going to land in the deep water’.”
Both Vanderschot and Brebner made sure to mention the long-standing safety record for the Quarry high dive. But beyond the similarity of the message being delivered, Brebner’s presentation — as noted by Councillor Winter — was like no other.
Readily admitting he doesn’t know how to play guitar, and switching on the video function on a digital camera sitting atop a tripod at the rear of the room, Brebner approached the podium with a placard and guitar case in hand. Asked by Mayor Steve Grose if he intended no videoing the proceedings, the St. Marys resident was then asked to wait for a few minutes while Town staff delved into whether or not the videoing should be allowed.
Brebner told Council he is creating a documentary about his fight to save the high dive.
Having been given the go-ahead to take footage of the meeting, he then began his musical delegation. The “song,” which he has entitled “Signature Song,” has lyrics similar to the multiple Letters to the Editor that Brebner sent out recently as part of his fight. Sounding more like a spoken-word performance with the irregular strumming of a guitar in the background, the composition nonetheless delivered his message forcefully: The high dive should stay open, because it’s a part of the heritage — and, hopefully, future — of St. Marys.
CAO Kevin McLlwain told Council that the Lifesaving Society has been invited to St. Marys to discuss the options, including a possible relocation of the high dive to the spot currently occupied by the low diving board.