Goderich: A Case Study of Conserving Cultural Heritage Resources in a Disaster
Jonas, Kayla Allison
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A high impact Tornado (F3 on the Fujita scale of F0-5) struck Goderich, Ontario on August 21, 2011, significantly damaging the cultural heritage resources in the town. Heritage planning activities prior to the disaster had an effect on how the cultural heritage resources were treated during the tornado aftermath and recovery. This thesis aims to record any lessons learned from the Goderich tornado and share the findings with other Ontario municipalities. A Literature Review helped form a study framework of ten best practices within Public Safety Canada’s four disaster stages: 1) mitigation, 2) preparedness, 3) disaster, and 4) recovery. A Townscape Survey was completed for the two existing Heritage Conservation Districts. This type of survey was developed in the United Kingdom and is meant to be an objective way of looking at streetscapes. The process involves taking views of the streets and scoring 25 criteria in each view. The aggregated score provides an overall impression of the urban landscape. In 2008 prior to the tornado, this quantitative approach was applied in Goderich and another two Townscape Surveys were completed after the tornado in 2012 and 2013. These three surveys form a longitudinal study, measuring the physical change over time. Eleven interviews were completed with fourteen key stakeholders, including: Planners, local property and business owners, members of the Municipal Heritage Committee, heritage consultants and architects, provincial representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, and advocacy organizations such as the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario and the National Trust for Canada. The Townscape Surveys of Goderich revealed that the character of The Square and West Street has not been irrevocably harmed by the tornado. Based on the experiences shared during key stakeholders’ interviews, best practices for the conservation of cultural heritage resources in a disaster were expanded from ten (as mentioned above), to 14 within the four disaster stages. The first of four stages is Mitigation, under which the best practice is to mitigate disaster impacts. The second stage is Preparedness, where the goals should be to: 1) educate property owners on heritage significance, guidelines and insurance; 2) prepare an inventory of cultural heritage resources; 3) designate important properties and landscapes – include emergency management of cultural heritage resources in the management guidelines; 4) prepare an Emergency Management Plan with reference to cultural heritage resources; 5) create relationships with Emergency Managers and other professional organizations who respond in a disaster; 6) create a manual on managing cultural heritage resources in a disaster to assist heritage workers and volunteers; and, 7) institute heritage-specific funding for use in a disaster. In the third stage, during a Disaster, the following actions are recommended: 1) perform a systematic damage assessment; 2) establish a conservation team; 3) establish mutual assistance agreements; 4) reach out and educate property owners; and 5) salvage material and document buildings. During Recovery, the fourth and final stage, it is suggested that planning initiatives be implemented. The initiatives should consider cultural heritage resources, some of which may include: an abbreviated HIA process; a Temporary Use By-law; Zoning By-law Amendments that encourage rebuilding that is sympathetic to the character of the impacted area; a planning undertaking that involves public input and will aid in guiding recovery (i.e., a Master Plan for the area or Heritage Conservation District guidelines). Many of the best practices for conserving cultural heritage resources in disasters are good heritage practice in general (i.e., prepare an inventory of cultural heritage resources, reach out and educate property owners), therefore, many groups are already taking some steps to assist with protecting cultural heritage resources in the event of a disaster. However, the combined effort of municipalities, heritage organizations (i.e., Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, National Trust for Canada and the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals), Municipal Heritage Committees, the Ministry of Tourism Culture and Sport, Ontario Heritage Trust, heritage consultants as well as homeowners of historic properties are required to prepare for and respond to any future disasters.