Heritage picture show
Months after retiring as general manager from South Nation Conservation, Dennis O’Grady was back at the office in Finch last Wednesday with a power-point presentation of some of his favourite photos depicting historic events in the region.      Van Dusen photo

Tom Van Dusen
Record Contributor
FINCH–Sixteen months after retiring as its general manager, Dennis O’Grady was back at the South Nation Conservation office in Finch last Wednesday with a power-point presentation of some of his favourite photos depicting historic events in the region.

When O’Grady left the agency he’d overseen for 30 years, he wasn’t totally unencumbered. He accepted a contract to cull though some 15,000 SNC photos and try to place them in some kind of order. That meant tossing repeats and images of no value and trying to identify places and people photographed during SNC’s 70-year history.

Now complete, the project accomplished what it set out to do, O’Grady told members of the SNC Communications Committee and a few guests after showing several hand-picked photos, many of them recalling the Lemieux landslides of 1971 and 1993.

Because of the ever present threat, SNC spearheaded a project to relocate Lemieux residents living dangerously close to the South Nation River, transforming the community into a ghost town. It has been 25 years since the last major slide; because of unstable soil conditions along the river, experts contend – and O’Grady agrees – that it’s not as matter of if but a matter of when the next major slide will occur.

O’Grady also showed several random flooding shots and some landscapes that he particularly likes. One shortcoming of the collection, he said, is that it doesn’t focus enough on people and their reactions to environmental conditions of the times; the focus is mainly on the conditions themselves.

Now that the culling is complete, O’Grady would like to see the photos made more accessible to the public, either through a table-top style book or perhaps an electronic display. Obviously, all 15,000 images couldn’t be published but 100-200 of the most significant could be.

Replaced by Angela Coleman, O’Grady moved back to South Western Ontario where he started out with Ministry of Natural Resources. He said he loves the area and is taking an active interest in local environmental issues.

While at SNC, O’Grady’s overriding goal was to protect the natural environment without putting a wall around it. It should remain accessible to all.

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