Don’t forget to send a postcard to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change if you to want to help the Oil Springs’ historic oil field achieve World Heritage UNESCO status.
Pat McGee, manager of the local UNESCO project, says a postcard blitz is now underway to get the attention of the federal minister, Catherine McKenna. McGee and Charlie Fairbank have been making presentations about the designation as often as they can to generate local interest and to spur people to send postcards of support.
Approval from Parks Canada, which falls within McKenna’s portfolio, is the crucial next step in the process.
A colourful map reading “Where in the World is Oil Springs?” graces the front of the card, McGee says, adding they are pre-addressed and boxes to collect them are on site.
“We’re hoping people will write them and get them in,” McGee explains.
Time is of the essence, she notes. Organizers will be picking the postcards up the third week of April.
According to McGee the Oil Springs application has been made under a cultural category emphasizing the impact of technology on mankind.
McGee says the impact of oil on society can’t be underestimated. Kerosene replaced coal for lighting and it was a game-changer.
“So many things happened when people had light,” McGee explains, adding it altered the way people learned and interacted.
According to McGee the World Heritage organization isn’t concerned with “firsts”. It is concerned about technology.
“We are the best in the world for early oil technology,” McGee says, adding the same methods are still in use at Fairbank Oil.
McGee says the current UNESCO bid builds on work that’s already been done. In 2010, the County of Lambton produced an Oil Heritage Conservation Plan, as part of the county’s strategic plan.
“Our plan stems from that,” she says. “A lot of the documentation was done at that time.”
Achieving the designation is a long process. There are currently 41 sites vying for the honour.
A short list of 10 sites, drawn from that list, will be announced in December 2017, as part of the wrap of Canada’s 150th birthday.
If accepted the process takes at least another two years. The bid must be studied and a dossier must be prepared.
The Oil Springs oil field was designated as a National Historic Site in 1925 and the Oil Museum of Canada has existed for 60 years.
Fairbank Oil has been producing oil since the mid-1800s. In 1862 the Shaw gusher erupted there. It was Canada’s first oil gusher.
The postcards of support will be available at Victoria Hall, the Petrolia Library and the Oil Springs Library. McGee and Fairbank will also be at Petrolia Town Hall Monday at 6:30 pm to explain the designation and will have postcards on hand.