More than 20 people attended an organizational meeting at the Stonewall Quarry Park Heritage Arts Centre on March 11 to discuss ways on how to save the limestone kilns at the park from further deterioration.
Last month, the Stonewall Municipal Heritage Committee told town council they are starting a campaign to save the landmarks, despite the cost of restoring the crumbling kilns exceeding $1.2 million. Stonewall Quarry Park manager Catherine Precourt, who organized the meeting, said since then, there has been renewed interest in saving the town’s symbols.
“Since the news the kilns needed help … we’ve had some people come forward in different ways to say, ‘I can help. This is what I can do,’” she said.
However, fixing the kilns is easier said than done. Tony Eshmade, whose structural engineering firm A.F. Eshmade and Associates Ltd. performed two assessments on the kilns in 2003 and 2018, said that one of the kilns is in jeopardy of falling into permanent disrepair.
“My guess is that within 10 years, at the absolute most, it will be down on the ground,” Eshmade answered in response to a question from the audience. “It just depends. It’s subject to weather … It’s a Russian roulette game from here on in.”
He also added that it would take six months to a year to determine the actual work needed to repair the century-old structures.
Grants from provincial and federal governments towards the kilns would be few and far between. They are not a designated historical site — although the Heritage Committee will apply to the Town of Stonewall for municipal designation in the near future — and they are located on
“What we raise here is probably the bulk of what is available,” Allan Webb of the Heritage Committee said.
Precourt said that the fundraising committee will leave “no stone unturned” and is exploring the possibilities of corporate sponsorship, a “buy-a-stone” campaign, and grants from private businesses such as Red River Co-op. Former Stonewall mayor Alex Krawec, who was on council when the town acquired the land for Stonewall Quarry Park in 1980, said that government funding was requested and received for the kilns back then and should be requested now.
“I think that we should not stand back, but go to the provincial and federal governments and ask for some money for that,” he said.
The first fundraising effort is already underway. Randy Frykas, a photographer and documentary filmmaker originally from Stonewall, will sell a limited amount of framed prints of his photo of the kilns for $150 with proceeds going towards the kilns’ repair. The image will be featured in the book Manitoba by Manitobans: Images of The Province by Its Citizens to be released March 14.
Prints can be purchased at the Heritage Arts Centre and other locations.