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Lakeview Park, Second Marsh getting heritage designations

View looking west along the lakefront path to Bonnie Brae Point in the distance. (Photo courtesy City of Oshawa)

By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter

Oshawa City Council has given heritage designations to two significant landmarks in the city.

Council endorsed a heritage designation for the whole of Lakeview Park and the Second Marsh under the Ontario Heritage Act at its March 29, 2021 meeting.

Regional and City Councillor Brian Nicholson says this is a “signature motion” for the city to give these sites heritage designations, who notes the reaction from the community has been universal in support of the designations.

Oshawa resident and heritage advocate Jane Clark says these heritage designations are a “step forward for heritage preservation in Oshawa.”

She says these two properties on Oshawa’s lakeshore together tell the story of the city’s earliest days – its settlers, industries, and forms of recreation, and in the case of the Second Marsh, its Indigenous past as well.

“Heritage preservation ensures that our cultural heritage resources are protected for future residents of Oshawa to learn from and enjoy,” says Clark. “These irreplaceable properties and their stories help to preserve not only our community’s history, but also its identity and sense of place.”

Clark notes full heritage designation protects such properties by defining which aspects matter to the community and should be preserved moving forward.

Looking east along the lakefront path to Lakeview Park Beach, Oshawa Harbour, and Gifford Hill in the distance. (Photo courtesy City of Oshawa)

Lakeview Park occupies approximately 28 hectares, or 69 acres, of municipal park land at the terminus of Simcoe Street South on the shores of Lake Ontario.

Created in 1920, Lakeview Park contains many identifiable features, including Lakeview Park Beach, Pioneer Cemetery, The Oshawa Museum and its three heritage houses – Guy, Robinson and Henry Houses – the Jubilee Pavilion, and expansive passive and active recreational grounds, including Jim Lutton Legion Field, Ted Stone Field and Ted McComb Field.

“Lakeview Park is an excellent example of an early 20th century municipal park on Lake Ontario, a jewel in the City of Oshawa that comprises several historical buildings and structures, a cemetery, extensive landscaping, and both active and passive recreational facilities,” reads a report.

More specifically, according to the report, Lakeview Park is considered culturally significant for its relationship to the development of the adjacent harbour in the early 19th century; its relationship to the Scugog Carrying Place portage; its connection to General Motors of Canada, as well as the McLaughlin family; and its relationship to the Oshawa Museum and the Oshawa Historical Society.

Furthermore, Lakeview Park is associated with prominent early settlers and city founders, such as Benjamin Wilson, Oshawa’s first settler of European descent.

Lakeview Park is home to Robinson, Guy and Henry Houses, three of the city’s earliest dwellings in proximity to one another, with their unique architecture, incorporating the Dutch Colonial, Georgian, and Regency architectural styles, respectively.

Built in 1927, the Jubilee Pavilion is another significant landmark within Lakeview Park. It was built to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada.

Lakeview Park is also home to many historical monuments, including the Gordon Conant plaque, The Little Lady of the Lake Fountain, the bandstand, and the Pioneer Cemetery, which contains a gravestone cairn, various gravestones of early settlers, and a commemorative plaque for Benjamin Wilson buried in the cemetery.

Council directed staff to undertake the process of designating the Second Marsh at its February 2020 meeting.

Second Marsh (Photo courtesy City of Oshawa)

Second Marsh is a 137 hectare, or 339 acre, coastal wetland located along the north shore of Lake Ontario east of the Oshawa Harbour.

According to a city report, Second Marsh and its surrounding lands include a wide variety of habitat types, such as meadow marsh, treed swamp, open water marsh and ponds that form a “complex biological and hydrological system for a diversity of species.”

As one of the best remaining examples of coastal wetlands in Southern Ontario, Second Marsh has been designated as a Provincially Significant Wetland and Life Science Area of Natural and Scientific Interest by the province.

There are several key heritage attributes of Second Marsh that reflect its value as an important link to the history of Oshawa, according to report, including the association of the Second Marsh and its adjacent landscape with many of Oshawa’s founding families and their commercial endeavours, including the Wilsons, the Farewells, the Conants, the Woons, the Beatons, and the Giffords.

The report also notes the naturally occurring barrier beach and view of the harbour, Gifford Hill, Lakeview Park, and Bonnie Brae Point, as well as the extent of the natural vegetation.

As of 2020, 588 species of plants have been identified at the Second Marsh – eight provincially significant and 136 regionally extirpated, rare, and uncommon.

Further, the high diversity of wildlife, including 288 species of birds, identified as of 2020, as the wetland is located on the Atlantic flyway, and therefore is an important staging and nesting area for waterfowl.

There are also 32 mammal species and numerous fish species that have been identified at the Second Marsh.

The Second Marsh is also home to a network of trails, boardwalks and viewing platforms, with links to other natural coastal features, such as Darlington Provincial Park and the McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve.

Clark says the Oshawa community understands the many benefits of preserving their cultural heritage, including supporting the economy, attracting visitors, contributing to the city’s character, strengthening its identity, and communicating pride in the community.

“Heritage designation under the Ontario Heritage Act protects properties like these that support our shared identity, while allowing the city to manage change to everyone’s benefit,” she says.

Clark notes designation does not block change, but rather helps to identify what parts of the city matter to the community so those stories can live on.

However, compared to Oshawa’s neighbouring municipalities, Clark says Oshawa has a “relatively poor record of heritage preservation.”

Although the importance of protecting Oshawa’s built heritage is enshrined in the city’s Official Plan, Clark feels the administration has been “reluctant to act” to preserve its landmarks.

She says repurposing a property is a great option for the city to consider.

“Many properties are located in desirable areas and are on generous lots, they attract developers who are more interested in profiting from the value of the land itself than in protecting the value of the heritage resource it stands on,” Clark continues. “As a result, heritage advocates must often react quickly to try to protect properties that have not been protected proactively by the city through designation.”

Clark says those who work to identify and preserve Oshawa’s heritage resources are pleased that the city has now moved to designate not only Lakeview Park and the Second Marsh, but the Robert McLaughlin House and the South Field at the Oshawa Executive Airport – Oshawa’s first Heritage Conservation District – among others.

“These are good steps,” she says. “We are hopeful that the city will choose to expand its protective policies and proactively manage change so that properties of cultural heritage value, despite their ownership, may also be designated and thereby protected for the benefit and enjoyment of Oshawa’s present and future generations.”