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The mayor of Collingwood is too tourist oriented and seems to think that Collingwood can survive with tourists. He’s dead wrong because it’s the local man that made Collingwood what it is.

Norm Low, 1986

After more than 130 years, Collingwood was losing its definitive shipyard. The most immediate and “obvious” move was to embrace tourism generated by Collingwood’s location on Georgian Bay and at the foot of the Niagara escarpment. Whitson (1999) has argued that many de-industrialized rural communities are becoming gentrified, with urban newcomers and tourist visitors moving in and “taking over”,at the expense of preexisting lifestyles. As a step toward exploring some of the cultural implications of Whitson’s claims, this paper argues that gentrification and commodification of communities does not always involve a complete writing out of identities that contradict subsequent “leisurescape.”

Cartier (1998) used the term “leisurescape” to refer to the transformation of real places with locally resonant meaning, to places which evoke consumption of locality by tourists in ways that do not extend too deeply into local meaning structures. For Canadian rural communities experiencing growth in economic importance of tourism generated by their positions in naturally beautiful locations, leisurescape carries the potential to overwrite other interpretations of place which emphasize productive capacity and the pragmatic needs of it’s working class constituents (“industryscape”).

Struggles over interpretation of Collingwood as a “tourist” town or an “industry” town were readily observable in discourse surrounding utilization of it’s harbourfront property owned by Canadian Steamship Lines (CSL). The case is presented as an historical narrative, which utilizes discourse found in the local press, public meetings, available official documents, and personal observation over an 18-month period. The course of debate over “leisurescape” vs. “industryscape” is traced through three sequential crises involving symbols of community identification spanning fourteen years ending in June 2000: the closing of Collingwood’s shipyard, the proposed hotel and marina development of the shipyard site, and finally the interpretation of community in the face of Intrawest’s ski hill development. Discursive struggles centered on the continued relevance of manufacturing industry to Collingwood’s sense of independence and regional preeminence in the face of growing pressure for renovation of physical landscape to suit the “new economy.” It is argued that the approximately 100-year-old tradition of manufacturing in Collingwood which delivered well-paid and reasonably steady employment, regional preeminence as well as a sense of self-produced independence, provided the economically backed cultural resources to resist complete reinterpretation consequent with consumption of Collingwood as “leisurescape.”

Further, it is argued that the entry of a potentially dominating ski tourist resort development into the region acted as catalyst to produce a platform upon which negotiation of Collingwood’s identity could be overtly conducted at the symbolic level. In distinction to claims that global economic and cultural forces annihilate local culture, it is argued that these same forces can initiate conscious negotiation and potential settlement of antagonisms between identity interests.

The following review develops this argument through literatures on the impacts of tourism on local communities. First, literatures on gentrification and commodification of place are canvassed to identify key dynamics associated with the confrontation of local icons of community with leisurescapes,built to articulate new settler and tourist interests. Second, the postmodern literature is employed to characterize and implicate the resort architecture recently adopted at nearby Blue Mountain resorts. Third, arguments are addressed that center on the possibility of cultural resistance.

Literature review

Found primarily within the urban geography literature, “gentrification” refers to the displacement of the working class from inner urban areas by middle-class renovators. At the cultural level, researchers point to relations of signification wherein middle-class romanticism delegitimates working-class pragmatism by recovering artifacts of architecture and landscape (Caulfield, 1989; Ley, 1986 and 1987; Suchar, 1992; Williams, 1986). Through restoration and reconstruction, these artifacts and the relations they mediate get “reindexed” (Rojek, 1997) from modernity’s lived pragmatism back to a pioneering promise. Refusing their genealogy, bourgeois interpretations of the problems, agonies and vulgarities of modernity are erased or rearranged in a manner that celebrates the power of consumption to disconnect social relations rooted in production. Variously expressed as “neo-archaism” (Lees, 1994, p. 147) or “revivalism” (Bondi, 1992), the point is made that gentrification involves the re-situating of place icons within frameworks of interpretation external to the lived relations of residents threatening that framework. While gentrification works to discursively occupy a location through residential reinterpretation, the commodification of place packages “heritage” for commercial distribution.

Proponents of the heritage commodification thesis argue that authentic culture (culture produced “naturally” or in absence of intended image “production”) is marginalized in favor of what the host thinks the tourist wants. This represents a reification or commodification of culture, alienated from its producer by a host of place sales personnel (Greenwood, 1977; Hughes, 1992). Recovered histories act as “culture brokers,” which match the transaction goals of both producers and consumers (Nuryanti, 1996). The market becomes the purveyor of what counts as history, authentic or otherwise (Ashworth and Tunbridge, 1990; Ehrentraut, 1993; Hall, 1994). A heritage object operates to discursively articulate pasts to suit contemporary projection of place (Crang, 1994; Johnson, 1999).

The urban gentrification and tourism commodification literatures converge in their critiques of the symbolic consumption of place, which distorts the lived relations between place and its long-standing inhabitants. The present analysis attempts to situate resort development in a Canadian rural community simultaneously as extensions of urban gentrification and as vehicles of commodification, which operate in a mutually reinforcing manner. Before proceeding to locate this argument in literature that returns a modicum of agency to host communities, it is appropriate to examine works which implicate the role of world-class resort architecture in the transformation of place to leisurescape.

Contemporary literature has pointed to the importance of symbolic vagueness as a property of post-tourism in attempts to resonate, but not specify place, making it more amenable to consumption by international tourists (e.g. Stevenson, 1999, and Thorns, 1997). Though Collingwood’s tourist draw is primarily regional extending into Toronto, the development underway at nearby Blue Mountain is styled as a world-class ski resort employing architectural imagery reminiscent of 19th century Ontario. Blue Mountain now offers a “total mountain experience” delivered by consumption of the “leisurescape” represented in the surrounding natural and selected architectural terrains which reads out the 20th century, practices that have been referred to as appropriation (Macnaghten and Urry, 1998).

Several authors have also commented on the role of themed architecture in resorts as a way of maintaining the fiction of the tourist experience, particularly for the baby boomers who are reflexive of their own impact on local cultures (Mordue, 1999). Critical focus is placed on how spaces create an active agreement between producer and consumer about the fiction of artifacts that resonate themes evocative of shared memories transported to contemporary interpretations of place (Johnson, 1999; Abali and Onder, 1990; Sternberg, 1997; Beardsworth and Bryman, 1999).As Boniface and Fowler (1993) argue, this global tourist “product” is not as homogenous in its overt representation as the Macdonalization (Ritzer, 1993; Ritzer and Liska, 1997) thesis would have it, but rather is heterogeneously evocative of distinctive place. The success of that heterogeneity is, however, dependent on its placement on a uniformity of infrastructure designed to maintain the fiction of the theme and provides the client with an “ontological security” (Lash and Urry, 1994) blanket. Places must be distinctive, but they also have to be safe, clean and exclusive environments, capable of simultaneously immersing and insulating the tourist. Bryman (1999) also alludes to this demand in his discussion of the popularity of “dedifferentiated consumption.”[1]   It is argued here that world-class resort development not only occupies the space it is physically built on (in the present case a piece of the Niagara escarpment), but also occupies the surrounding territory in demands for consonance with projected themes.

Several authors have cautioned against a-priori negative interpretations of alterations in community identities attendant on tourism development. First, gentrification and commodification can lead to material benefits to be enjoyed by residents and tourists alike. Residents also get to use improved roads, parks, paving and police services. Residents also get to enjoy new public spaces as well as development of historical sites they otherwise would not have been able to afford, or at least would not have made a municipal spending priority (Chang et al., 1996). In other words, the commodification of place can mean enhancements that need negotiating between tourists’ needs for symbolic consumption and locals’ need for urban improvement of “zones of discard” (Chang, 1997). Small rural communities are pragmatic if anything. Second, “authentic” community identities are not static or necessarily singular. Cultural practices change and alter over time as communities change with internal and external influences. The “production” of authenticity, quasi or otherwise, could be seen as an authentic act in the expression of those who are now tourist hosts, and “… new meanings may be added to old ones which persevere into new situations” (Cohen, 1988). Third, Waldren (1997) was careful to point out that communities can successfully resist the loss or alteration of their indigenous referents by incorporating in, and/or distancing “others” from, locally developed frameworks of meaning. In other words, communities contain resources that enable successful resistance to cultural commodification potentially enabling “relocalization” (Urry, 1995) in the face of globalizing forces. While methods of maintaining such cultural integrity vary between communities, our attention is drawn to the ways in which communities write their own interpretations and negotiation of expanding leisurescape, rather than simply focusing on how communities get written over by gentrification and commodification.

In summary, we argue that a host community’s negotiation of the terms of symbolic and material relationships with those consuming place as a leisurescape are mediated by the ability of that community to negotiate the integrity of it’s constitutive icons. In the case of Collingwood, community diversification over fifteen years meant substantial fragmentation of defining icons from which negotiation could take place. We argue that the march of gentrification and commodification was slowed by the insistence, on the part of some citizen groups, on the continuing importance of historical symbols of Collingwood’s industrial capacity, and thus it’s distinctiveness from the surrounding communities ofWasaga Beach and the Town of the Blue Mountains. The announcement of Intrawest’s intended development served as a catalyst for creation of a platform upon which definitive symbols were negotiated, consolidated and rendered as filters through which material relationships with the resort, surrounding communities and indeed constitutive community members are to be pursued.

We now turn to the historical narrative upon which the above claims rest. The first section traces the rise and fall of Collingwood’s shipbuilding industry with particular emphasis on the crisis of identity that the closure of the yard produced. The second section traces the contours of debate over proposed condominium development of the subsequently vacant harbor-front property. The third section canvasses Collingwood’s negotiation of defining icons in the face of Intrawest’s resort development.

Shipbuilding as Dominant Identity

The town’s economy was almost totally dependent on the shipyards. Years ago, some merchants used to gauge their ordering by the length of the order book at the Collingwood Shipyards.

EB, 27/8/1986, p. 3a(ii)

Collingwood was incorporated as a town in 1858. The region surrounding the town had developed small pockets of settlement since the late 19th century. East of Collingwood, Wasaga Beach had established itself as a summer beach resort and agriculture dominated the region north and west of Collingwood (now known as the Town of the Blue Mountains). Located on the shores of Georgian Bay on Lake Huron, Collingwood’s harbor made it the logical location for establishment of a rail terminus serving as a transport link from southern Ontario to northern Great Lakes communities and more importantly the larger industrial areas of Montreal and Chicago. The terminus stimulated the development of a fledgling logging industry as well as grain and fruit agriculture. Along with the growth of passenger and goods traffic, Collingwood’s harbor began to develop necessary infrastructure to service and maintain the increasing volume of ships as well as improve the shipping-rail connection. Different economic bases and independent municipal authorities served to provide references for cultural and political distinctions that demarcated lines of competition for regional preeminence.

While minor shipbuilding had been occurring from 1858 with the launching of The Brothers, a wooden schooner, the completion of a dry-dock in 1883 marked the beginning of Collingwood’s primary identity as a shipbuilding town expected to grow along with east-west goods and materials traffic. The Toronto Daily Mail commented that “it is doubtful if there is a town on the continent prouder of herself and her achievements than Collingwood is today” (Arp, 1983). Though the fledgling yard underwent several ownership changes between 1883 and 1900, most of Collingwood’s civic boosters identified the harbor and its terminus as the major asset to draw manufacturing industry and diversify the economy from its trading base. However, with the development of capacity to build steel ships, that industry became the dominant player in the city, certainly worthy of a $50,000 grant from the town of Collingwood to support the expansion of its dry-dock. By 1905, 200 people were working at the shipyard. By 1918, this number had risen to 1700 (some of which were producing munitions).

Although several light manufacturing industries located at Collingwood throughout the first half of the 20th century, shipbuilding remained the Town’s pride. The spectacular side-launches, necessary when ships began to “outgrow” the dry dock and a practice continued to the very last ship, were attended by the entire town and usually other dignitaries eager to observe the results of a healthy shipbuilding industry (Woodcock, 1983). Each ship marked the community’s ingenuity and collective hard work. Shipbuilding was not only the most important industry in terms of economic independence, but also evidence that the Town was worthy of further manufacturing investment. Whenever they visited, dignitaries were greeted with Collingwood’s shipping capability. With slogans on banners such as “let us build the ships that carry the grain that feeds the mouths of the multitudes” (Arp, 1983) and mayoral invitations to visit the yards as the showpiece of “the manufacturing possibilities of this town” (Arp, 1983), Collingwood optimistically styled itself as an industrial center capable of rivaling Chicago. The shipyard not only provided work for Collingwood, it provided a heroic identity for its workers and the community as a whole. The constant reminder of a large ship at the end of Collingwood’s main street served as the town’s signifier.

Though badly affected by the Great Depression, production of mine sweeper, cargo and combat vessels kept the yard busy during the war years. Of any of Collingwood’s over 200 ships, the 19 Corvet destroyers stand large in collective memory. These were not only big ships built by heroic industrialists, they were symbols of Canadian industrial ability and contribution to the maritime war. After the war, new fleets were demanded for expanding Great Lake trade. In response, Collingwood expanded its harbor capacity to handle the 730-foot lakers now needed (Gillham, 1981).

The postwar period saw a reasonably steady supply of contracts to keep the shipyard and associated industries that grew up around it. During the mid-sixties, Canadian Steamship Lines (CSL) bought the shipyard. With the rise of road transport and decline of Great Lake shipping in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Canada found itself with a surplus of ships. Unable to compete with Asian countries for the building of supertankers, due to harbor limitations and labour costs, the shipyard closed its doors for the last time in September of 1986. Ironically, the same year that Intrawest purchased Blackcomb, as it’s first ski resort.

By 1985, the shipyards had gone four years without a fresh contract and had nothing concrete in sight apart from work to be completed on current commitments. However, expecting to secure Federal contracts for ten minesweepers in addition to smaller contracts, the community remained optimistic that looming lay-offs would merely be part of the usual economic cycle (Enterprise Bulletin [EB], 20/3/1985). In April of 1985, an estimated 2,000 people (EB, 24/4/85, p. 1a) turned out to watch Collingwood’s ritual celebration of its place in global industry, and the industrial heroism of its shipyard workers, touted by the M.V. Paterson’s owner and namesake as the “best in the world” (EB, 24/4/85, p.10a). Although assistance had been hinted at through extension of the Federal Shipbuilding Industry Assistance Program (SIAP), the 1986 Federal budget contained no extension of grant, subsidy assistance or minesweeper contracts for the Collingwood shipyard (EB, 24/4/85, p. 1a; 5/3/1986; 19/2/1986). Canada was clearly realigning its industrial strategy to reduce shipbuilding.

During the year prior to the closure in June 1986, shipyard workers were feeling the pinch. They had accepted wage rollbacks (offset with a delivery bonus) and were discouraged from WCB claims due to the rising cost of insurance (EB, 5/6/1985; 3/7/1985). Throughout 1985 and 1986, particularly following the loss of ship conversion, fire repair, and destroyer bids and contracts, Collingwood’s “agony” spurred local politicians and shipyard elite’s to shift tactics and demand help from Queens Park and Ottawa (EB, 2/4/86, p. 4a; 16/10/1985; 18/6/86). Official letters, delegations, personal representations, and the attention of opposition politicians merely produced the promise of a “fact finding mission” which never occurred. (EB 5/3/1985, p. 1a; 5/3/1985, p. 3a (i-ii); 30/4/1986; 13/11/1985;15/1/86; 5/3/86; 2/4/1986; 11/6/86). The launching of the Sir Wilfred Laurier in July of 1985 was the last for Collingwood.

Shipbuilding in Collingwood had not gone down without a sustained and energetic fight from the community and reactions to the closure were as expected. Terms such as “shock,” “dismay,” “shame,” “bereaved,” “deep sense of loss,” and “anger” were used to describe feelings about the end of Collingwood’s defining industry (EB, 1986, p. 1a (i)). The town would never again hear the sound of steel being worked by the hands of its heroes living out the community’s identity of over a hundred years. Amid lamentations that the shipyard “is part of our very being” (EB, 27/8/86, p. 2a), townspeople scrambled to salvage relics. Yard “memorabilia” comprising paintings of ships, mounted photographs of the yard, memorial crockery, “crests, hats, mugs, posters and T-shirts bearing slogans such as ’End of an Era’, and ’Lost Heritage’” proliferated in Collingwood stores (EB, 17/9/1986, p. 1a). James Holloway wanted to save the yard whistle. In a letter to the mayor and town council, Holloway wrote: “I propose that the town retain the shipyard whistle, that has sounded at intervals daily for so many years. This is a tradition, which is so familiar to everyone in town and the surrounding area. It could serve as a commemorative to what originally built this town (Holloway, 1986) [emphasis added]. Memorabilia was not, however enough. Collingwood had lost the body that housed its soul. Alex Besse, who had been working to secure industrial transition money from the Federal government, put a fine point on the bereavement felt by Collingwood:

None of these measures are adequate to replace the loss we have suffered today. Shipbuilders are shipbuilders and Collingwood’s heritage has been a shipbuilding heritage for over 100 years.

EB, 27/8/1986, p. 3a

The closure of the shipyard on September 12, 1986, did not mean the end of manufacturing in Collingwood. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, industry assistance grants had been extended to firms locating in rural areas. By November of 1985, Collingwood’s major manufacturing employers held around half of the employed workforce. LOF Glass, Harding Carpets, Goodyear, Kaufman Furniture, Nacan, Canadian Mist Distillers, Blue Mountain Pottery, and Goodall Rubber all reported stable employment conditions into the foreseeable future (EB, 20/11/1985, p. 1a.). Further, shortly before the official closure of the yard, CSL announced its intention to build a drafting company in Collingwood and Magna International announced its intention to build a $45 million plant with the capacity to employ 350 people (EB, 27/8/1986). While these industries served to maintain the “industrial” character of Collingwood, they did not supply the collective sense of pride in productivity delivered by shipbuilding. Neither would tourism.

The discourse surrounding the shipyard’s closure revolved substantially around loss of material and symbolic foundations of Collingwoods identity that had established Collingwood early in the 19th century as the region’s economic engine, and kept it separate from it’s surrounding communities, both of which were dependent on tourism and agriculture. The closure of the shipyard, not only meant job loss, but also rocked the foundations of a working class that held the authority of four generations of civic preeminence. Positioning tourism as a potential strategic alternative was predicated on the region becoming a coherent four-season tourist draw, dependent on consumption of the attractive natural environments of Georgian Bay and the Niagara escarpment – a leisurescape that would be devoid of reference to Collingwood’s capacity for industrial independence. Throughout the late 1980’s and 1990’s, shipbuilding gradually slipped into “history” as it became evident that it would not return.

Recovering shipbuilding as “heritage” has not been part of Collingwood’s attempts to boost its tourism industry. Rather, promotion of special events and development of residential capability to support exploration of the surrounding natural “leisurescape” has been the primary focus of development. However, shipbuilding icons have continued to play the role of identifying Collingwood to both internal and external constituencies as more than a location to be consumed, or a as a base to consume from. Shipbuilding icons found contemporary resonance in debates about who’s town Collingwood really was. Shipbuilding “heritage” offered a way to resist the submergence of manufacturing industry and it’s attendant implications of economic independence, under the weight of leisurescape driven by demographic fragmentation and the emergence of resort complexes.

While new manufacturing industry was presented with the subtext “just because shipping is gone, we are still an industrially strong people” official and media attention began focusing on the potential of tourism to recover Collingwood’s sense of regional preeminence. During the postwar period into the 1980’s, “tourism” was seen as of limited economic benefit to Collingwood, as opposed to neighboring Wasaga Beach’s almost total dependence. Further, tourism was something that was dependent on the existence of God-given nature rather than the expression of collective productivity. Something that meant face-to-face dependence on Toronto’s middle class as opposed to the staunch and defiant independence of an industrial aristocracy. While attractive for its potential of economic spin-off, embracing tourism implied a degree of failure for many Collingwood residents.

During the postwar period, “tourism” for Collingwood meant skiers. The progressive growth in numbers of beach oriented or semi-wilderness/rural cottagers largely occurred outside of Collingwood’s municipal borders in Meaford, Thornbury and Wasaga Beach. Skiers, however, came closer to home. Beginning as early as 1936 and, up until the mid-late 1960’s, Blue Mountain operated as a small, low volume, technologically unsophisticated ski destination. The pre-1970’s history of the resort, recorded and published by it’s founder’s (Jozo Weider) son George Weider (1990), was a history of the grit and imagination of an Austrian immigrant and his vision to build a ski village progressively from capital generated by skiing. There is not space here to recount in detail the struggles for financial survival that characterized the postwar and pre-ski boom years. However, it is necessary to emphasize how muchJozo’s pragmatism, creativity and energy underpinned the resort’s personal relations with it’s clientele and surrounding communities. Through and into the 1970’s, the resort bore all the characteristics of a family operation: small intimate lodges, crude but serviceable equipment and leisurely and friendly ski competition.

However, relations with surrounding communities were cool. Weider was not granted a liquor license for the resort, partly due to the conservatism of the agricultural community that controlled the township of Collingwood. As the volume of skiers gradually increased during the 1960’s, so too did the level of enmity between Collingwood residents and skiers, and thereby the hill. Collingwood residents grudgingly tolerated skiers as a simple nuisance that attracted the derogatory label “sliders.” “Sliders” crowded roads, grocery stores, and emergency wait lines at the Collingwood hospital. They were numerous during the winter months, but did not pose a substantial threat to Collingswood’s internal identity as an industrial center. If anything, the skiers confirmed that identity by the stark difference in wealth as well as their reason for being there – consumption, not production. George Weider recounted the enmity that continued into the 1980’s:

Many of the town’s people and merchants resented the outsiders who tramped into restaurants and stores in ski-suits and heavy boots. “We definitely had the feeling that we were not wanted when we tried to book into the Arlington for the weekend”, remembers Ted Harrison, who has been skiing at Blue Mountain with his wife Gertrude since 1947. “We quickly learned that the best thing to do was arrive in business clothes; if we had ski jackets on we might be told that all the rooms were taken.”

Weider, 1990, p. 60

The cultural gulf between these urban “tourists” and local agricultural and industrial communities was partly associated with their non-contributory roles. Skiers were not building anything. They viewed the region as a “leisurescape,” free of any reference to the primacy of productive independence characterizing host perceptions, the evidence for which was their generally disrespectful and rowdy behavior. This being said, the resort and its clientele were only socially marginalized during the early years, not demonized. Shipyard workers helped to construct the original lift gear, local residents casually worked at the hill. Further, marginalization was not complete. The resort astutely allowed locals to ski for $2 on designated days, which helped to dampen enmity through familiarity and access.

When Jozo died in 1971, the resort operations reverted to the family. Under the leadership of Gordon Canning and George Weider, the resort progressively added to its technological and real estate sophistication to keep up with demands from the skiing public. Adding to the 20-room two-story inn at the base of the mountain, new developments in the 1970’s included expansion of lifts, lighting, base lodge, snow-making equipment, administration offices and a mini-bobsled run over 2000 feet long. The 1980’s saw the building of a 103-unit five star-hotel, a water slide on the mountain and a new chair lift. During 1985, the resort also obtained zoning permission from Collingwood Township for development of a resort village – part of Jozo’s original vision. While the village concept did not become a concrete and financed plan until 1999, substantial residential and recreational development of the land surrounding the base lodge (outside of Collingwood’s borders), development that occurred primarily because of the ski hill and summer recreational attractions, continued through the 1980’s and 1990’s. During this period, many urban people settled in Collingwood; these urban refugees or new settlers were known locally as seasonal “part-timers” “commuters” and “retirees.” Whatever their differences, they all had the consumption of Collingwood’s location in the Georgian Triangle as their primary rationale for buying homes there.

The years between 1986 and 1991, peaking in 1989 saw the most explosive growth ever in residential development. By late 1986, just months after the shipyard closed, resort developers had noticed, “there were 625 condominiums sold in the previous ten years. This year 300 units have been sold” (EB, 17/12/1986). According to local real estate agents, the wave of development occurring in the late 1980’s was primarily fueled by developer speculation about the propensity for baby boomers and retirees to consume “leisurescape” in comfort corresponding to urban levels. The late 1980’s was arguably the beginning of Collingwood’s cultural fragmentation.

In spite of the promise that Collingwood could become an “Aspen of the North”, the shift in emphasis was not easy or unopposed, as demonstrated by the discourse surrounding the most symbolically important of those developments. In search of something to help dampen the pain of the shipyard closure, Collingwood’s mayor began extolling the virtues of tourism, as an industry that could perpetually supply service jobs, albeit, not paid as well as unionized shipbuilding. More importantly, gearing up to service tourism’s residential demands would require residential construction, and that would require the skills of workers previously employed at the shipyard, particularly welders and cabinetmakers. Cognizant of Collingwood’s ambivalence and potential hostility toward tourism, the industrial development commissioner began preparing the town for what was to come in his comments about efforts to attract more industry “heavier than a breadbox” to the harbor-front.

A harbor-front high-density condominium/marina development would also be ideal. I’m not saying industry would be best or tourism would be best, I just want it used to its potential.

EB, 27/8/86, p. 2a(ii)

The harbor front’s “potential” became the focus of an at times heated debate which would last for the next fifteen years. Two days before the official closure, rumors of CSL’s proposal to develop the land for tourism hit the front page of the Enterprise Bulletin (EB, 10/9/1986, p. 1a). Just over seven months later, detailed plans were released. The space containing the soul of Collingwood, the harbor, would soon become a massive residential complex supporting the area’s tourism. The $80 million plan included “a 250-room hotel and conference center, a shopping plaza, two office buildings, a 107 slip marina and up to 450 condominiums” which would “extend the town to the water” (EB, 4/3/1987). Perhaps the most important aspect of the development was that it’s “focal point” would be a Lake Freighter permanently moored at the location, probably the Fort Henry (EB, 4/3/1987), a 461-foot vessel launched from Collingwood in 1954 and retired in 1979 due to her fuel consumption (Gillham, 1992, p. 110). The Fort Henry “could contain a restaurant, a theatre, marine museum and an exhibit center.” The plan also included retention and restoration of the machine shop and boiler room to house “stores and boutiques.” Equally important, ex-shipbuilders could be employed as construction workers (EB, 4/3/1987).

Town council was unanimous in its support of the proposal. It not only meant good tax revenues from the site, but also a goodly amount of direct employment and subsequent income for the community from “tourist” occupants. The chairman of Collingwood’s Industrial and Tourism Commission commented, “this is really going to put Collingwood on the map… This splendid plan is going to make us the Aspen of the north” (EB, 4/3/1987, p. 2a).

Terms such as “awesome”, “wonderful” and “exciting” were used by the council to describe the development. The placement of the ship meant Collingwood would retain its identity as an heroic shipbuilder and industrial center. The town’s Reeve commented: “I think when the public gets a good look at it there won’t be too many complaints about what’s being planned. I like the idea of a ship being there, I always wanted a ship at the end of the street, now my dream is being realized” (EB, 4/3/1987).

The council’s planning committee approved the project a week later, contingent on the results of environmental impact, parking and traffic studies (EB, 11/3/1987, p. 1a). The Provincial Treasurer, Robert Nixon, “an avid skier often in the Blue Mountains [was] pleased with the leaps in the Tourism industry in Collingwood” (EB, 4/3/1987, p. 3a). By November, a number of studies had been conducted, primarily revolving around the competitive impact of the plan as well as the viability of its components to support themselves. The ship proved not to “represent strong economic value to the developer and is thus contingent on the awarding of a grant under the Federal/Provincial tourism assistance program” (EB, 4/11/1987, p. 1a). The Provincial Treasurer was not pleased enough, however, to successfully assist approval of funding for the ship.

Apparently symbolic value to Collingwood was good enough to preempt effective criticism about the conversion of the shipyard for tourism, but once that had been accomplished, the ship as well as other heritage features were edged out of the picture. The total bill for the heritage and convention center elements of the plan came to approximately $6 million for the government to bear. This included half the cost of the ship at $1.5 million, $0.5 million for the refurbishment of the machine shop and boiler room, and $4 million for the convention center inside CSL’s hotel. Formerly the chairman of Collingwood’s Industrial and Tourism Commission, now CSL’s development representative, Alex Besse declared of the chances of the submission “if this doesn’t qualify, then what on earth would” (EB, 2/12/1987, p. 11a)?

Qualification was not the issue, however. Following revision of the plan by a new team of development consultants conducting further viability studies, the ship concept was sinking. During successive meetings in late 1988 and early 1989, proposed housing units more than doubled. The ship and its theatre disappeared from serious consideration, and doubt was being cast on the probability of a convention center. Some hope remained for the use of the machine and boiler buildings (EB, 28/9/1988; 26/11/1988; 21/1/1989). Council’s concerns about public access, sewerage capacity, sight lines, density and building height continued to attract their scrutiny (EB, 10/5/1989). The council did however pass the needed bylaws to rezone the shipyard as residential/commercial property and placed the development application in a “holding pattern” (EB, 26/7/1989).

In spite of unanimous council support for the CSL proposal, tourism vs industry discourse continued throughout the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s. The terms of that discourse had to do with material and symbolic effects of tourism and the capability of Collingwood to express it’s independence through the benefits to Collingwood as well as autonomy of identity that industry could bring to Collingwood. Following three years of intensive recreational property development in Collingwood, and shortly after the first physical model of the proposal was put on display, Peter Stransky mounted a campaign to raise money for a sustained Ontario Municipal Board appeal of the harbor-front rezoning:

Whereas a lot of we local people quite like our small town community, after our needs come first, the needs of urbanites and tourists and those who would urbanize our community come next … Let it be known that I the undersigned am not prepared to sell our lifestyle to a developer who proposes so little benefit to the people of Collingwood.

EB, 6/1/88, p. 5a

Tourism for Stransky threatened the needs of Collingwood’s industrial working class. Although harbor-front recreational residential properties had been expanding for some time, the hallowed CSL site proposal brought the matter to a head. Given the industrial resonance of the shipbuilding site, it’s proposedreplacement with a massive condominium complex represented an attack on the working class:

Most people feel that the council should be more responsive to the local citizen’s needs such as affordable housing first and outsiders second.

EB, 3/2/88

Stransky’s efforts to put up a “wall of Collingwood” (EB, 13/1/88), flagged the gulf between productive “insiders” and consuming “outsiders” building in intensity along with the wave of development that hit Collingwood in the late 1980’s. The Enterprise Bulletin’s editor was prompted to call on town officials and executives to deal with a “dichotomy” that threatened to split the town in two:

Two separate economic societies are developing – separate but unequal. One side worships the god of tourism, bowing down to its feet; the other the industrial sector, unbending, unyielding… Tourism, along with our existing commercial sector seems to be holding the economic umbrella over the town, but after the buildings are built, where will the construction jobs go? How many more condominiums can Collingwood sustain? The land is after all a finite commodity attempting to feed the insatiable, infinite appetite of developers serving the needs of buyers who want the recreational amenities Collingwood offers.

EB, 7/2/1989

This rift however had been acknowledged much earlier by town officials who were careful to ensure that “industry” continued to receive accolades as Collingwood’s foundation of defiant independence even in the wake of the shipyard’s demise. In an article titled “Collingwood means industry at its best” The Enterprise Bulletin’s editor commented of the town’s recent public relations efforts on behalf of industry during 1988 that:

This area is alive with industry. We send everything from wheels to spirits and pottery to many places on this earth. The fear that Collingwood would fold if the Shipyards ever closed was tossed out long ago … We have candles, pottery, wood stoves, boats, seat belts, windshield, carpets, whisky and much much more. Collingwood does not take a backseat to anyone when it comes to industry… It is the worker that keeps us high on the industrial map. It is the worker that produces the top-notch products that has people thinking about this area.

EB, 31/8/89

In spite of attempts to assure residents that their interests were not being subsumed beneath those of “tourists,” the proposed CSL development continued to come under attack. On September 21, 1991 a revised proposal was brought to a Collingwood community meeting. Five years of revisions to the original proposal saw substantial change and the residents of Collingwood were not pleased. The new proposal included two high-rise condominium and hotel complexes as well as an expanded number of high-density housing units, a marina and shopping areas. Sight lines and public access to the harbor were extremely restricted and no provision was made for the placement of a Collingwood ship or the boiler and maintenance buildings.

The presenters of the plan were dressed in suits and presented the sophistication of their project modeled on Boston’s harbor front, as something that would make Collingwood a world-class four-season tourist destination. These factors, in addition to the organization of the question period, which reserved responses to questions as a “rebuttal” at the end, created a substantial social distance, reminiscent of that between skiers and residents, between the plan’s promoters and the town. Even though the town council had approved the development, the audience tore the proposal to shreds. Nine of the twelve people asking questions or making statements joined Stransky in their opposition to the development. Issues substantially revolved around symbolic and physical access to Collingwood’s hallowed site with particular emphasis on the loss of “heritage” represented in the quashed ship and building preservation. The transcript of that meeting shows that “heritage” was not anachronistic, but was itself in defiance of handing Collingwood over to consumption without production (Town of Collingwood, 1991). Amidst successive minority claims that a “world class” waterfront would put Collingwood on the map, came the majority voices claiming the right to access, heritage artifacts and consideration for further industrial development. One commentator went straight to the heart of the matter arguing that the development may put a permanent rift between productive residents and consuming newcomers:

I’m really concerned over the long haul that we will develop (and I see it to a certain extent now) a “we/they” mentality in our community. “We” the people, live in a community that we work, and “they” the people that come here for a weekend and part-time.


CSL re-submitted its proposal in 1994, which met with similar resistance, and has not yet returned to it.

Shipbuilding as “heritage”

Controversy over the CSL development located itself squarely in ongoing tensions about the relative attractiveness of manufacturing industry vs. tourism, which were now almost a decade old. The proposal threatened to extinguish artifacts of lived relations now articulated as “heritage” objects, but heritage objects with signification of contemporary relevance to struggles over ownership of Collingwood’s identity. We are able to observe that proposed commodification of heritage consumption was not seen to necessarily kill off “real” heritage. In this case, symbolically important infrastructure was only maintainable through its use to contain functions that directly served leisurescape. Dedifferentiated heritage could have prevented complete revision to leisurescape by unifying contradictory icons in a way that would enable local/global negotiation of what Shields referred to as “normative codes of spatiality” (Shields, 1991). In Collingwood’s case, codes of spatiality that excluded it’s industrial roots threatened to cut the community off from its iconic source and the platform from which to resist the undercutting of it’s sense of independence, something that was not lost on a small group of community activists, one of whom successfully ran for council in order to protect the public’s symbolic interests. During the 1990’s, the municipality progressively acquired all non-developed harbor-front land culminating in the 1999 receipt of $252,000 for redevelopment of the acquired properties (EB 10/4/99, p. A1). Motivation for this sustained action was stimulated by the threat that the CSL proposal posed to longtime Collingwood residents’ physical and symbolic access to their definitive site. The proposed development (officially opened as the “Millennium” site in June 2000 immediately following the last visioning session) potentially represented the final chapter to the harbor-front’s icon wars. However, the density and diversity of discourse imbedded in the visioning sessions to come demonstrated that final settlement needed to occur in context of the whole town, not just one confined area of real estate.

New developments in the 1980s and 1990s had already converted substantial portions of harbor space to private condo consumption. If the harbor was not retrieved soon, only the wealthy would be able to enjoy it, and no negotiation of it’s “heritage” meaning would occur. The CSL property, arguably the jewel in the harbor crown and located directly at the end of the main street, remains out of municipal hands and its development directions uncertain.

The development crash of the early 1990’s put a dent in the town’s expectation of an immediate tourism El Dorado, but did not deter preparations for what most thought was inevitable. In fact, population growth continued with immigrants from the city, and the popularity of skiing continued to grow. With the exception of its ski village requiring massive capitalization from an appropriate partner, Blue Mountain’s executives saw little reason to slow its ambitious expansion plans begun in the 1970’s. Municipal preparation for what was understood as an inevitable transformation in its economic and residential identity included major upgrades to its parks and walkways, installation of an extensive trail system and construction of a new water-treatment plant. The continued influx of new and formerly urban residents meant the stimulation of an environmental consciousness that had been afforded very little voice in earlier periods. Further, the Provincially sponsored environmental Remedial Action Plan provided a platform for the establishment and renovation of parklands and areas of environmental significance.

The town was also successful in attracting major events such as equestrian competitions as well as the Elvis Festival, the latter of which was and continues to be capable of attracting around 20,000 visitors annually. By the late 1990’s side launching was no longer what Collingwood was known for. Its environment, capable of simultaneously supporting a safe and leisurely lifestyle as well as the “Aspen of the north” had, at least externally according to OutdoorMagazine (EB, 29/6/99, p. A1), become Collingwood’s main attraction.

With the fragmentation of its economic underpinnings as well as its population base we might have expected a substantial degree of gentrification flagged by the proliferation of café’s, boutiques, and widespread retrofitting of downtown residential property. However, new development has largely occurred in relatively self-contained locations and manufacturing employment has remained steady throughout the 1990’s, due in large part to the continuing commitment of town executives to the industrial community and its working class constituency, resulting in efforts to attract and retain manufacturing industries.

Further, the “old guard” of shipbuilding, is still alive and revered. Now represented by the “Quarter Century Club” comprised of shipyard workers with twenty-five years or more of service, they continued throughout the 1990’s to meet annually in celebration of their industrial fraternity. The continuing and broad based resonance of the heroic shipbuilding identity can be seen through the response to the 1999 silver anniversary voyage of the Che Cheemaun, a ManitoulinIsland ferry built in Collingwood in 1974. Sailing from Owen Sound to Collingwood and back to mark its twenty-fifth anniversary, the ship carried a sell out crowd of residents reclaiming some of their past. The locally resident Reverend Christopher Pratt commented that this was an opportunity to connect the history of the community. “We need to recognize the shipping roots of this area” (EB, 4/5/99, p. A1).

That resonance, however became an historical one in danger of anachronism. When the boiler room and machine shop were torn down in 1998, one former shipyard worker commented:

It was sad to see the state those buildings were in and they were only getting worse. When you work all your life at a place and it closes, it’s hard to take, but you have to let go.

EB, 2/9/98, p. A1

The removal of the buildings signified that shipbuilding was consigned to an irretrievable past, a final act of anachonizing a dead industry. The town’s economic development director commented:

From a historical perspective, those buildings are the last indication that an industry took place on that site. It’s necessary [to remove the buildings] from a safety and aesthetics point of view; it is a gateway to the community.

EB, 2/9/98, p. A1

In one sense, it might be argued that the out-migration and aging of former shipyard workers progressively eroded the contemporary relevance of shipbuilding symbols in Collingwood, now confined to minor museum exhibits, the local Legion and the spit leading out to the derelict grain elevators where some name plates, ship artifacts and a few paragraphs describing the yard, are displayed. However, shipbuilding continues contemporary currency in the strength of identities enacted by this “old guard”. Spoken of in semi-whispers, the workers stand in the minds of civic leaders and residents, almost as ghosts who will return if named too loudly. The ghosts of Collingwood do not rattle chains or wail in the night, yet they haunt the consciousness of community leaders who understand the symbolic importance for Collingwood people of the town’s independence, both from it’s surrounding communities and from Toronto.

The CSL development proposal threatened to overwrite Collingwood’s productive waterfront with consumption. No longer evocative of Collingwood’s industrial capability, the proposal re-ignited antagonisms over the propensity for tourism to reidentify or reindex Collingwood from its industrial core. However, the tearing down of the remaining buildings also seemed to signify the consignment of the meaning of shipbuilding to anachronism, in danger of remaining that way in the face of expected development consequent to the establishment of the nearby Intrawest resort, predicated on creation of an environment that writes out the 20th century. On the other hand, the iconic and material threats posed by both developments stimulated strategic action to regain conscious control of symbolic resources, rather than leaving it up to the commodifying vagaries of the market. When Intrawest came to town, Collingwood residents were spurred to collectively decide what sort of town they wanted. The resulting negotiation platform was developed from resident generated drawings of what the town should signify.

Intrawest is coming!

Ending months of speculation, on January 14, 1999 Blue Mountain resorts announced that 50% of its shares were to be sold to Intrawest, which planned to upgrade hill infrastructure and build a new village with 1,000 condo units, 200 town houses and retail space equivalent to Mt Tremblant in Quebec (EB, 16/1/99, p. A1). According to local realtors, the largest ever proposed development in the region had the immediate effect of pushing up residential property values in the region (EB, 24/3/99, p. A6). The announcement also reinvigorated debate about what sort of town Collingwood was and wanted to be.

Civic leaders initially greeted the announcement with a great deal of enthusiasm at two levels. First, even though Collingwood would receive no direct tax revenues from the development, Intrawest’s history of successfully boosting winter and summer resort visitation was widely known. Substantial economic benefits might be derived from tourist spending as well as construction activity (EB 16/1/99, p. A4; 23/1/99, p. A9; 24/2/99, p. A1). Second, the resort might prove to be a catalyst for increased development of Collingwood’s leisure amenities. Proposals for facilities such as a theatre and an equestrian center now stood a better chance of being realized – and succeeding economically – due to the potential increase in appropriate clientele. Further, development of the hallowed waterfront shipbuilding site might also be reinvigorated by increased demand for access to the new resort (EB, 11/6/99, p. A3), and potentially receive a far more favorable hearing from a community more demographically fragmented and consequently disconnected to older harbor icons.

Although these benefits of gentrification initially stood large as a further step in Collingwood’s route toward the “Aspen of the north”, more sanguine voices began raising the specter of loads on community infrastructure as well as retail competition for the tourist trade (EB 16/1/99, p. A3), and potential threats to the industry/tourism balance (EB 17/2/99, p. A2). Further, the issue of traffic volumes to the new resort meant a potential bypass of the town. Concerns deepened about the potential impact on the retail sector, potential costs, and more importantly potential dependencies on the hill’s new population coming to Collingwood rather than through it. (EB, 17/4/99, p. A1; 21/4/99; 20/8/99, p. A5). These issues in turn energized debates about what sort of community Collingwood was and wanted to be.

By the time it had reached Blue Mountain, Intrawest had extensive experience in politically negotiating its entry into regions. There is not room here to recount in detail, Intrawest’s march to become the world’s second largest resort developer with shares worth in excess of a billion dollars. However, key features of its proven corporate strategy are worth highlighting to demonstrate the deployment of techniques, which simultaneously integrate producer, consumer and host in global leisurescape consumption. According to its 1997 annual report:

The key to Intrawest’s blueprint for success is integration. Each gear produces skier visits, increased revenue per visit and higher real estate values at every turn. The design’s elegance is that the gears work in sync, causing a compounding effect. The result: exponential power. The power to move mountains.

Intrawest’s “power to move mountains” is the power to renovate an existing undercapitalized ski resort, and gain revenue leverage by progressively integrating consumption centers (skiing, accommodation and summer use facilities) in a way that will eventually return enough cash flow to finance expansion to other locations where the process will begin again. The power to move mountains is the power to give them new meaning as leisurescapes.

“Not everybody wants that programmed, corporate, plastic atmosphere. [However,] in the ski industry, it’s eat or get eaten, so this was inevitable. (British Columbia Report, 1997, p. 20). Some ski industry commentators have argued that Intrawest’s and other major operators” adoption of this development strategy, predicated mostly on the renovation of existing hills, has led to a massive decline in privately – as opposed to corporately – owned resorts. Typically undercapitalized, private operators could not invest in the standard of facilities now demanded by the “baby boomers”, the key demographic targets of the ski industry since the mid-1980’s. The new corporateresorts go further than reducing lift line-ups by adding new chairs. They deliver a “total resort experience” predicated on multifaceted consumption of leisurescape: “The total resort experience is a tapestry of fantasy and technology. One that has a subtle interplay of natural environment, history, regional culture, architecture, art, food recreation, leisure, romance, housekeeping and homemaking” (Intrawest, 1996).

In the case of Blue Mountain, the theme is 19th century Ontario – “a very magical place” (EB, 16/11/99, p. A1) that can be rediscovered at a price: “the people who come to our resorts are the people who like to discover and wander” (EB, 24/2/99). Three techniques were deployed by Intrawest to engage “locals” with the culture of the society that would circulate within the new complex. First, the resort was partially designed with the participation of “community” members, none of which were residents of Collingwood, to enable the appropriation of the discursive referent of “community.” Second, the resort’s impacts were positively identified in public presentations with the message that the resort is part of, rather than outside, of the community, thus seeking to establish the notion of mutual benefits. Third, site visits to Mt Tremblant and nearby St. Jovite were conducted to show the future of Collingwood. These visits in particular had the effect of constructing Collingwood as a potential economic winner (EB, 21/5/99, p. A1), but also highlighted concerns about uneven distribution of infrastructure costs borne over the municipal line (EB, 3/12/99, p. 1) and an employment configuration (business owners and low end wage workers) that tended to destroy the middle class and place enormous pressure on welfare systems (EB, 10/12/99, p. A2). Housing in particular had independently become an issue of concern to those interested in attracting industries in need of skilled workers, who would have to come from outside of Collingwood. The problem raised was that rising house prices could be a problem for first-time buyers, thus making the attraction of skilled workers more difficult (EB 7/1/99, p. A4).

Concern about the effects of the Intrawest resortheightened to the point where in 1999, Collingwood’s own scheduled strategic planning group became almost completely preoccupied with resort impacts and eventually settled on creation of a method by which competing ideas of the community could be negotiated at the symbolic level, serving as a filter for articulating its position in relation to the resort as well as surrounding communities. In other words, a process was put in place to deal directly at the iconic level as a foundation for material strategy.

Collingswood’s capacity to negotiate with the development process has been somewhat limited by the municipal line that separates it from Blue Mountain. It has not been able to obtain tax revenues, grant relief, or regulate the resort. However, that line has also marked its distinction from the hill and from the Town of the Blue Mountains. During the early 1980’s, the Georgian Triangle Tourism Commission was formed to promote the region as a tourist destination. Though indicating a degree of intermunicipal cooperation, competitive commercial relationships and political rivalries have made more difficult the commission’s task of developinga four-season tourism presence dependent on regional cooperation. In spite of regional economic development and tourism agencies, the region comprises communities that have different interests. The pull toward further facilitation of four-season tourism stimulated by the new resort meant, particularly for Collingwood, a need to strategically position itself in relation to the other communities (EB, 24/2/99, p. A4; 31/3/99, p. A3; 7/4/99, p. A5) .

The impending expansion of the resort and associated leisurescapes stimulated the resurfacing of old tensions around defining industries. Paralleling continued discourse about the viability and desirability of retaining non-tourism related industries (EB, 6/3/99, p. A3; 28/4/99, p. A8; 11/5/99, p. A7; 27/7/99, p. A3, 14/9/99, p. A2), Collingwood reformed the strategic planning group “Focus 2000” (renamed Vision 2020 in mid-1999) in early 1999 to revise earlier planning efforts (EB, 16/1/99, p. A2). The initiative became quickly preoccupied with the task of projecting the impact of the Intrawest resort, explicitly seen as a potential threat to the carefully maintained balance between the town’s economic interests. Following the initial gathering of information, largely comprised of studies on the impacts of resorts on other communities, Vision 2020 opened the visioning process to the entire community.

In early 2000, approximately 1600 residents responded to a “visioning brochure” comprising ten open-ended questions about residents” “visions” of what sort of community they wanted Collingwood to be. Following the collection of the brochures, two May workshops were conducted with the explicit method of drawing pictures with accompanying text, depicting an ideal Collingwood. In June 2000, the results of both processes were presented along with four artists” renditions of their interpretations of the workshop’s iconic output to an audience of approximately 200 residents. The results, though not entirely predictable, were certainly reflective of the community’s now diverse constituencies; “they” were now part of “us.” The artist renditions variously depicted the town from the perspective of the harbor and resonate with the settlement of the long-standing industryscape/leisurescape tension.

Results of the brochure were infused with harbor comments and imagery. “Leisurescape” predominates the picture selected by the audience as the most representative of their iconic labors, though the grain elevators and scattered hints of industrial activity were included. The grain elevators were dominantly (85%) thought of as historically important enough to keep as part of the “town’s shared history,” but should be turned to uses such as indoor rock-climbing, academic residences, composting facilities or a cultural facility. More interesting were comments made about the diversity of imagery now demanded:

The terminals were seen by many people as being emblematic both of the necessity of change and the type of change needed.…The theme for redeveloped harbor lands is to be Georgian Bay related – something that focuses on the town’s heritage, with emphasis on shipbuilding, but not in a way that is excessive. Many people felt that a certain element of diversity was important… “The waterfront” as one respondent said “is our ace in the hole.”

Vision 2020, 2000


Fourteen years of tension surrounding the town’s definitive icons and the material relations underpinning them were actively and openly negotiated in a process stimulated by the perceived threat of a major power in global resort development. That negotiation was however underwritten by other dynamics such as demographic fragmentation and the long-standing struggle to retain community ownership over its definitive harbor front. The juxtaposition of icons in the idealized waterfront coming out of the visioning process can be interpreted as resolution of lengthy struggles and tensions of a community facing successive cultural crises. The dogged insistence of community leaders that Collingwood should pursue its independence through industry while simultaneously encouraging the expansion of its cultural diversity is partly predicated on the town’s long and continuing history of fiercely fighting to sustain the interests of industries that provided it with regional distinction, and partly predicated on the contemporary resonance that three generations of shipyard workers still carry in their ability to articulate Collingwood as a town that will not give up itself as a place to live the pride of a decent working-class life. It is indeed “the local man that made Collingwood what it is,” but that “local man” has been joined by women, seniors, telecommuters and a new generation of mall hungry youth who have also made Collingwood what it is and what it will be. Commitment to maritime industrial imagery intermingled with commitment to the green and urban demands of its new residents and visitors, promises a physical weld of historical figures and contemporary possibilities.

It was argued at the beginning of the paper that that pressures of gentrification and commodification, spurred by global dynamics of demography, attendant consumption patterns, and the spread of global capital do not necessarily result in the sort of cultural annihilation often found in contemporary literature. Rather, these same threatening processes can serve as catalysts for conscious negotiation of identity explicitly conducted at the iconic level. In the case at hand, it was argued that Collingwood’s determined efforts to retain industry under increasingly difficult circumstances, and to retain a sense of the importance of industrial icons represented in the ship-building industry, enabled historical artifacts to retain contemporary resonance in the negotiation of community autonomy.

It is not yet certain that Collingwood will resist gentrification entirely and in perpetuity. New developments with 19th century themes, resurgence of downtown architectural revivalism, increased pressures for retail renewal and customer service training are already emerging. Further, moves toward commodification of the town are implied in dedifferentiated use of the grain elevators as well as moves to harmonize marketing imagery with regional environmental emphases. It is not certain that CSL’s probable redevelopment of Collingwood’s harbor will respect the diversity of interests articulated in the visioning outcomes. Nor is it certain that the potential for Intrawest to configure relations in its surrounding communities will be resisted in perpetuity. However, Collingwood now has an explicit, popularly developed physical representation of its iconic self-determination to serve as a foundation for strategic negotiation with it’s neighbors including Intrawest.

Collingwood’s shipping heritage has not yet been commodified in a way that sells a sanitized account of industrial success. Nor has shipbuilding been completely consigned to historical anachronism. Rather, shipbuilding icons defiantly protect Collingwood from being exclusively read by inside and outside worlds as a place to rest and play. Collingwood is also a place to work, a place produced by locals “who made it what it is,” not merely consumed by people and forces beyond the control of a small town.