Petrolia Discovery gets ready for the tourist season

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 Cara Vosburg Photo

Haley Pretty, Discovery Board treasurer, sorts through boxes of old paperwork on the steps of the Corey Fuels building at The Petrolia Discovery Saturday. About a dozen volunteers helped to de-clutter and clean the various buildings to get ready for the Discovery’s seasonal opening May 27.


Petrolia Discovery Foundation members and volunteers were out in full force preparing the historic site for the coming tourist season.

The volunteers sorted through the exhibts and dusted the winter’s cobwebs away in preparation for summer’s visitors in what is like the first of many jobs this year.

Dawn Sperling, the chair of the foundation board, says the site will open on time despite the passing of its long-time leader.

Donna McIlmoyle lost her battle cancer in mid-May. She had been the general manager of Petrolia Discovery historic site for over a decade and had recently lead to the foundation’s board of directors to gain an operating loan from the Sarnia Lambton Business Development Corporation which allowed the Discovery to regain stronger financial footing after several difficult years.

Sperling says board members are saddened by McIlmoyle’s death but are “moving forward.”

Sperling – who became chair when Joel Campbell resigned just before McIlmoyle’s death – wouldn’t say a whole lot about the group’s plan. When asked if the board was going to hire a new general manager Sperling answered “We’re assessing a plan on how to move forward. The site will be open this summer.”

Sperling says in the short-term volunteers will take on a greater role than before. Two summer positions are being filled now and the students will be the front-line staff throughout the summer.

She adds the annual Father’s Day Car Show is also going ahead with volunteers soliciting sponsorships from local businesses now.

And while the summer plans at the site continue, Sperling confirms the foundation board did meet with Town of Petrolia officials last week. The town and the board had been trying to arrange a meeting for several months and postponed one which was scheduled for May 5. Neither Sperling nor town officials would say what had been discussed at the meeting nor when they would meet again.