I have always prided myself in being an entrepreneur, and have never worked well in bureaucratic environments. A little more than a year ago I was asked to join the Scugog Public Arts committee, a group which is responsible for many of the artistic projects in the Township.
At my very first meeting, the subject of a gateway sign was discussed. It was a project that has been in the works for several years. Someone asked if I was interested in taking it on, and after a second or two of thinking, I said sure, why not? How difficult could this be?
Well, let me tell you, I had no idea what was involved. First of all, it is important to note that the money for the sign was donated several years ago and in no way affects the Township coffers. Two people had submitted designs, but neither had the ability to construct and implement them.
I talked to a few people and came up with a few designs, for what I thought would be a simple, no-brainer project. I mentioned on the onset, that I was not good at bureaucracy, and this was certainly turning into one. I met with members of the Heritage Committee, because Port Perry is after all, a very historic town. I found them to be extremely helpful in directing me to colours and historical information
I was excited, because I began to see a direction for the project. I quickly realized the sign was intended to make travellers aware that Port Perry had an historic downtown shopping section, missed by many motorists en route to points east. My next move was to contact the Chamber of Commerce and Business Improvement Association, as they are the heart of the downtown business sector.
The Public Arts Committee, headed up by Kent Farndale, approved the design, so my next step was to present to Council. Was I nervous? You bet I was. First thing I did was find my suit and dust it off. It usually sees the light of day for weddings or funerals, so you can imagine how shocked it was.
Next I began to prepare my presentation. I was allowed five minutes of speaking, and for those who know me, my warmup period is usually 30 minutes. It took some doing, but I was prepared and ready, and glad to see some members of the Arts Committee in the Council chamber for support.
My name was called, and I slowly walked toward the podium. For some reason I felt like I had entered the dock in a courtroom of old. The Mayor and Council sat high above, staring down, waiting for me to begin. I fumbled with the microphone, and suddenly heard my voice echo throughout the chamber. It was daunting, but I must admit, council was understanding and asked only a few questions. I exhaled when they approved the concept with a few recommendations.
Then the bureaucracy began; I had to contact the Ministry of Transportation. The sign was to go on Highway 7A, just west of town and that, of course, was their jurisdiction. I was given a contact, and after several calls learned that he was retired. Finally I spoke with a person who knew the rules, and he sent me an 800+ page manual on road signage in Ontario.
It took a while to sieve through the overwhelming material, but after four months, we finally received the permit. I must admit the Township staff were very helpful in moving this along and finally, with a self-imposed deadline of Canada Day, the sign company started construction. True to everyone’s word, the sign was finished June 29th, and the landscaping went in on the 30th, a day before July 1st.
For those of you who have seen the sign, let me explain the layout: the colours are official Port Perry shades and the date of 1852 refers to the year Scugog Town was renamed Port Perry. The arch across the top mimics the arch at Palmer Park, and the cut-outs across the very top, reflect the building tops at Perry and Queen Streets. The simple words, Historic Port Perry, tell passersby that we have a picturesque downtown, full of history.
Thanks to everyone who helped make this project a reality, especially the Township Staff and SmartCentres. Next time you drive into town, along Highway 7A from the west, take a look at the gateway sign; one of the few things that did not cost taxpayers a penny.