Make it right!

Make it right, mayor and council of Comox …

On Wednesday, July 20, you are scheduled for the final vote on the fate of an historic house called Shakesides, donated to the Town of Comox in trust to be used as a place to reveal the magnificent nature we have here in Comox Bay, one of the most beautiful places in the world. The donor, Mack Laing, is recognized as a world-class naturalist and a leader in this field in Canada. We should be honoured that he left the Town land, money and his house for the enjoyment of the people of Comox to learn about and enjoy nature. You should NOT be moving to destroy that very house and making plans to overturn his will to do so.

I ask each of you to take a creative, bold step, to show courage to do the right thing, to honour the legal will and trust of a citizen of Comox, a man who trusted you to do what he asked you to do after he died and could no longer speak for himself. A man who gave the Town what is now Mack Laing Park that runs from the ocean to Balmoral Avenue, land that is worth millions of dollars.

I ask that you reject the three flawed recommendations of the committee: to demolish the house (against Laing’s will and trust); to turn it into a full-scale climate controlled museum (totally unrealistic and not the intention of Laing’s will); or to operate it as a limited access, by-appointment only facility (not Mack Laing’s wish at all – he wanted it as a way to educate the public about nature).

The committee never explored the obvious and best solution to fulfilling Laing’s will: to use it as a “Nature House”. This term is included in the title of the committee but it is an option they did not even consider exploring, so their findings are incomplete and thus must be disregarded.

I ask that you make a motion to create a modest Nature House. A recommendation that makes perfect sense. The ideal solution. One that fulfills the will of Mack Laing. One backed by local businesses, donors, and contractors willing to give their time to restore the building to the condition it was in at the time of his death.

Restore peace to the community. Honour a legal will and the trust money given to you.

Let’s make this work.

Lawrence Buser, Comox


5 comments for “Make it right!

  1. Terry Chester. Heritage Vandal #1
    July 17, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    Your petition is meaningless unless you more closely define what this “Nature House” would actually be, that is, what is its mandate, size and purpose? In any event, to propose building or re-building any structure in that location ignores the fatal flaws that have prevented any action to date. Surely the best way to exhibit nature is to use nature itself, that is, show the park the way that Mack Laing found it. Man-made structures that want to impose on this natural beauty so we can “explain it” merely demonstrate man’s arrogance.

    • adminml
      July 18, 2016 at 4:52 am

      Gosh Terry, grabbed your stomach and visited this site again, did you? And just to blather your usual nonsense! What a waste!

      The “fatal flaw”, Mr Chester, is that you failed to examine the very concept expressed in the title of the Mack Laing Nature House Advisory Committee and refused to allow any discussion of this very viable option. It was not the responsibility of the MLHS to present a business plan for this – it was the job of the Committee. Instead you corrupted the second option into a “tour and conference centre” in your final report – a concept that was never discussed or approved. If you want to see what a nature house can be, look at the website about the one in Stanley Park:

      This is what Mack Laing would have wanted – and what the committee should have been considering. To understand nature, education is necessary. This encourages respect for the natural environment and a sense of being an integral part of something special. It’s what Mack Laing expressed in everything he wrote. It is arrogance on your part to assume this is not necessary in a world we are destroying. The Park itself is being destroyed by invasive vegetation, introduced by people who prefer ignorance to action (except to dump their weeds in a Town park and condemn anyone trying to make a better world).

      • Terry Chester. Heritage Vandal #1
        July 18, 2016 at 2:43 pm

        Yes, I’ve visited the Stanley Park site, very impressive, but it was not created from a derelict building. Notwithstanding the title we were given, the committee was not requested to examine a “Nature House concept”, read the TOR, we were asked to “evaluate the potential to convert the house into a natural history museum”. We did that, and found that the limiting factors precluded that option. Our exploration of other ideas was entirely at our own volition, (interestingly the other ideas came from me, not the MLHS). We explored every avenue we could to preserve that building, indeed that was one of the goals we set for ourselves in meeting two. Its in the minutes. Even you will have to admit that the building, in its current configuration, with narrow dark stairways, little useable space and run down condition could not be used for a Nature house. You would have to basically start over. The fatal flaws I was referring to are its location, lack of access and security, and basic services.
        I also concur with, and commend, your efforts to remove invasive vegetation from our park, if you could just focus on that instead of firing point blank at those with other ideas and concepts we might get something useful done.

        • loys maingon
          July 18, 2016 at 6:54 pm

          Oh Chester Chester….
          What is this, a dish of smoked red herrings?
          Engineers were in…. and professional heritage planners, ……as well as a professional building inspector on your committee, Mark Oeullette, whom apparently you blocked and insulted.. and they all found the house amenable to the stated purpose.
          You and your clique seem to be the only ones who find fault ,,,, Maybe it is a literacy problem? remember what Laing said? – the man whose house you said had “no heritage value” The man whose trust you had no problem pretending did not exist. Well, he gave the property, he was an eminent naturalist and he explicitly stated that he wanted his house preserved on the property……
          The Attorney General seems to agree with that.
          Let’s make a deal. You like compromises, don’t you? Let’s make compromise.
          Since you and the Town can’t live up to terms of the will, why doesn’t Comox return the property to Laing’s nearest living relative (Some are in Manitoba and some in Oregon and California – they are not that hard to find), and return the money – all $485K to the Public Trustee? That is the normal procedure where a trust cannot be met. That would be fair, would it not?
          Comox Council could then buy the park back from them and do what it wants with it.
          I would be happy with that – and we could all go to your airshow watch vintage planes being sold to the Ontario…

        • adminml
          July 19, 2016 at 5:43 am

          Obviously you missed the quite obvious fact that the Stanley Park nature house was converted from a former derelict maintenance garage off Lost Lagoon, under the causeway. It’s right on the water (yes, it has flooded) security is minimal (what security does a nature house need?), and access is only by a narrow pathway. You can see the outside of it here (scroll down a bit): Stanley Park Nature House />
          The Stanley Park nature house has no setting to recommend it, unlike Shakesides. Lost Lagoon and the bay are no more natural than Filberg Park.
          Shakesides is quite suitable for a nature house. It doesn’t require anything grandiose. A small library, some brochures, a small educational set-up to display the seasonal wonders of the park, and a lovely view over the estuary.
          An all-season view, by the way, in a heritage house left for the purpose, with a trust fund to support it. Mack Laing wasn’t a stupid man. If the house needs work now, it’s because the Town failed to do what it promised – and misused the funds it should have used to see that happen. And they seem unwilling to right this wrong – in fact they want to break a Trust. That’s more worrying than anything else. We expect better standards from our elected representatives and the administration whose salaries we pay for with our taxes. And we hoped for more intelligence from people like you.
          Do you really think the MLHS would be involved in a project that was as impossible as you try to make it? We know what restoration would cost and we believe a nature house would be self-supporting – a novelty in Comox, where even tennis players and the home of a lumber tycoon are subsidized by the taxpayer – to say nothing of our hole-in-the-wall museum, which gets a $25k yearly taxpayer-funded grant.
          We have the professionals lined up to do the renovation and we have proven we can raise funds. Give Shakesides to us and we’ll do it!
          Something useful is being done in the Park and elsewhere – and will continue to be done by the MLHS, no matter what the outcome. I’m afraid we’ll be around for a very long time – and you will not be unaware of that fact.
          We will focus on what is important to us, Terry, and what fits with our mandate to educate about and honour Mack Laing. We don’t need your advice.

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