Volunteers dedicated to Chantry Island heritage

Marine Heritage Society based in Southampton (Saugeen Shores) continues to create a tourist destination attraction while preserving the early marine heritage of the Great Lakes.

On Friday, November 9th, the organization held its year-end dinner with plans already in the works for next summer 2019.

The entirely volunteer-driven organization maintains Chantry Island with its Imperial lighthouse and the island that is an officially designated Federal migratory bird sanctuary as well as an international summer tourist destination.

Guest speaker, John Hlynialuk, showed his incredible night photos of the Milky Way as they took place over Chantry Island.

The organization began when a group of retirees decided to take on the restoration of the Island with its Imperial lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters.  The original five volunteers called themselves the ‘Propeller Club’ and took on the task of restoring the historic Island.

From its early beginnings, the group of volunteers began to grow.  Tours to the Island began to become a popular tourist destination and the volunteer organization became the only one designated by the government to care for the Island and to be allowed to transport visitors to it on a restricted basis due to its designation as a migratory bird sanctuary.

Marine Heritage President, Vicki Tomori, explained that the Marine Heritage Society started in 1995 as a follow-up of the Propeller Club.  “We started, as a Board of Directors, to manage all aspects of Chantry Island, the local Southampton Boathouse and the Chantry Island tour base at Southampton Harbour.  This past summer we had 1,559 passengers with 170 volunteers who conducted 212 trips to the Island with 10,776 hours for trips to the Island.”

Tomori said the relationship with the town of Saugeen Shores has been a key to the success of Chantry Island. “The town helps with our insurance, the boathouse and other aspects such as the annual Marine Heritage Festival.  We simply could not operatie with the cooperation of the town.”

While Chantry Island tours are weather dependent, they continue to grow in popularity and, this summer, grew more than $10,000 in revenue over 2017.

Not only do the tours provide interest to visitors, they also give students an opportunity to work throughout the summer.  This year, three young students had the chance to learn about heritage of the Island and the work it takes to maintain it.

The organization maintains Chantry Island and its Imperial lighthouse on Lake Huron off the shore of Southampton and also maintains Pioneer Park at Southampton Harbour.  The Park retains several historical items and has  become a popular venue, with its picturesque scenery, for weddings and other special occasions.

Stan Young, co-Chair of the Marine Heritage Festival held each summer, gave an update on the 2018 Festival. “It is becoming the summer jewel of Southampton with its many activities that includes the popular cardboard boat races.  This year, we had 56 boats from all ages and, despite not a great day weather-wise, attracted hundreds of people.”

Marine Heritage Society, although at the end of the year, has already started planning for next summer and the many tourists who will make the trek to visit Chantry Island.