Goderich, Ontario open to tourists again
A metal tree inscribed with the words "Nature giveth and nature taketh away" was installed at Harbour Lions Park to mark the one-year anniversary of the tornado in Goderich. (DALE CARRUTHERS/QMI Agency)
Just over a year ago on a lazy Sunday, Aug. 21 afternoon in 2011, a destructive F-3 tornado with winds as high as 300 km/h ripped through picturesque Goderich, Ont., a town of 8,000, leaving in its wake approximately $130 million of destruction.
It also took the life of a 61-year-old man who was working at the salt mine in the town when the tornado struck. Downtown businesses, century-old buildings and several churches lost their roofs and upper floors as the four minute twister ripped through this community on the shores of Lake Huron.
On a recent trip, there was very little evidence, with the exception of the town square which has been left without century old trees, that a tornado had literally torn this town in half. Plans are still in the works to re-plant the 1.2 hectares of the epicentre of the square with trees and grass.
Bob Marshall, tourism manager for the Town of Goderich, said," It's amazing how the residents have gotten together to re-build the prettiest town in Canada. Old and new businesses have re-appeared and tourism this past summer was, generally speaking, very good. Some of these visitors were here to see the impressive improvements since the tornado".
Most of the severely hit businesses were closed for seven to eight months. One exception was the yellow-bricked Hotel Bedford (circa 1896) where I had decided to spend the evening. Ken Bowen, president of the 35-room hotel said," We did sustain some damage but were fortunate enough to re-open in 12 days, the first on the square".
Hotel Bedford has a nice blend of the past and the present. Main floor rooms are accessible to the handicapped, but you have to take a stairway to your room on the second or third floor. Check out the stain glassed skylight above the stairway. An overnight stay will run about $100.
When you're here be sure to have a meal in Paddy O'Neil's. It's reasonably priced food for real people who are hungry served by friendly staff.
Before you begin your tour of the town pick four heritage self-guided walking tours that you can get free of charge at the town's tourism office at 91 Hamilton Street.
THINGS TO DO
It's easy to linger in this town.
Goodrich's Courthouse Square really is found in the middle of an octagonal core. Shops, many located in historic early 1800's buildings, surround the outside of the square and streets radiate from the centre of this Courthouse Park. As I found out, there's no shortage of eateries and shops in this area to spend my money.
Give Timmies a rest and get a few pastries from Culbert's Bakery on West Street. When you see something you like buy it then. Chances are it won't be there when you return later. Culbert's has been operated by the same family since 1877 and are known for their old-fashioned donuts. They accept only cash and are closed on Sunday's.
There's still time to visit the Goderich Harbour which has a rich marine history. You can see large ships filling up with grain from the Goderich Elevators to be shipped all over the world. At the harbour take a look at the blue roofed buildings. These are part of Sifto Canada's Salt Mines. Sifto has been mining salt from under Lake Huron since the early 1950s and the Goderich mine is the largest in the world. Salt is processed to be used on roads and in water conditioners.
At the harbour you'll find three lovely beaches where you can enjoy one of summer last dips. In the evening grab a folding chair and sit on the beach and see one of the most colourful sunsets on the Great Lakes.
Goderich, once again, is very much alive.