In true Gracia Janes fashion, when asked about her decades of work with the Niagara-on-the-Lake Conservancy, and the Living Landmark award she received from the Niagara Foundation for those efforts, she quickly diverted the discussion to the accomplishments of the Foundation.
Instead of talking about herself, she wanted to talk about The Wilderness, an important piece of property that stretches from Regent Street to King Street, that the Foundation is trying to save. It is part way there, she said, commending the work of the Foundation.
She also reminisced about her early meeting with the past owners, when she and her husband Bob moved to King Street in 1985.
She was hoping that the “really really old trees” on the property could be preserved, an example of her continuing belief that it’s as important to “save the space as the place,” that natural heritage is as important as built heritage. “History is all around us,” she says. “Actions took place on these spaces — that’s what makes NOTL unique.”
Janice Thomson, the Foundation member asked to introduce Janes at the awards dinner, had no such hesitation speaking of all the Conservancy president has done for the town.
The purpose of the award when it was created 13 years ago, she said, was to “bestow worthy recognition on a growing list of achievers and contributors – Norm Howe and Gerry Wooll; Donald Combe; Calvin Rand; John Walker; Joy Ormsby; Christopher Newton; Peter Stokes; Jim Smith; Debi Pratt; Gary Burroughs; Norma Jean Lowrey and Blair Harber; Richard Merritt; and Judy MacLachlan are those that have been recognized to date.”
They are the role models, the citizens of NOTL, who “built the beautiful town that we all appreciate today,” she said.
“When we add the name Gracia Janes to the list of recipients of the Living Landmark award, the human mosaic expands and deepens even further. Gracia, while a strong advocate for heritage preservation, makes amazing impacts on our world in ways that we do not necessarily see on a daily basis. Working outside Niagara-on-the-Lake, for the benefit of all Canadians, Gracia Janes demonstrates her leadership skills and her love for this town, province and country, in many ways.”
Thomson mentioned some of Janes’ accomplishments: she’s an Honourary Life Member of the National Council of Women, has served as president of the National Council of Women’s Education Fund; vice-president of Environment for the Provincial Council of Women of Ontario; and president of the Niagara District Council of Women.
“We are proud to say that Gracia Janes is a resident of our town and, frankly, amazed that in addition to the important work Gracia is performing at a national, provincial and regional level, she finds time and energy to contribute so much at a local level,” said Thomson.
Locally, Janes is president of the NOTL Conservancy, of which she has been a member for decades; works with the Social Assistance Reform Network of Niagara: and is a long-standing, active member of the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society.
Janes said she was honoured to be recognized by the Foundation, “an amazing group of people who understand heritage.”
She speaks humbly about the important accomplishments of the Conservancy, its work on past Official Plans to preserve portions of the Commons from being drawn into the urban boundary, and the Ontario Municipal Board hearing it won, which limited the height of the King’s Point condominiums, preserving the views across the river.
She remembers, after that success, passing by municipal lawyer Tom Richardson, on the side of the developer, and having him tell her she’d “done good.”
Another important win was to have specific densities included in the OP, at a time when council would have been content to have density decided in specific situations. “That was a big thing. We were able to keep track of it,” she said. “And it will never be over. We really need to keep going.”
Janes has worked with a lot of councils, she adds, “and I believe this is the best council we’ve ever had, as far as heritage conservation.”