A Blue Flag recognizing Port Stanley’s Main Beach as among the best in the world, is now flying proudly over dunes of sand near the shores of Lake Erie.
A ceremony Wednesday to mark the official arrival of Blue Flag accreditation also paid tribute to former Central Elgin mayor Sylvia Hofhuis, who helped make it happen.
Officials gathered in Port Stanley to officially hoist the flag and unveil a sign, telling the public what Blue Flag status means to the community, and ways to keep the beach in pristine condition.
Granted in Canada by Environmental Defence, Port Stanley joins 14 beaches and three marinas in Canada recognized with Blue Flag status.
In July, 2008, Port Stanley was declared a candidate beach, making it eligible for Blue Flag status. In order to achieve
that designation, a beach must meet a list of 27 stringent criteria, ranging from water quality and accessibility for the disabled to first aid equipment and public education.
And that’s exactly what Port Stanley did.
“Congratulations, you’re the first beach on Lake Erie to achieve Blue Flag status!” said Sarah Winterton, education and outreach director with Environmental Defence.
“It’s a very good day,” said Central Elgin Mayor Tom Marks. “This is big and it’s certainly something to crow about. That’s what we’re doing today.”
But, Marks noted, he had very little involvement in gaining Blue Flag status for Port Stanley. That credit, he explained, lies with Hofhuis, who died in March after a long illness.
“I think it’s fitting that Sylvia Hofhuis is going to be recognized as part of this,” said local Liberal MPP Steve Peters. “Yes, Port Stanley may be a bit of heaven but there’s somebody from heaven that’s watching over us right now and that’s Sylvia Hofhuis. I’m really proud of the work that Sylvia contributed to not only the community of Port Stanley but to Central Elgin and all of Elgin county.
“Sometimes we plant seeds and we don’t have an opportunity to see the results of them. This is a great seed that Sylvia planted and I’m quite confident she’s looking down with great pride at what has been achieved today,” he said. “This is prestigious and very important to Central Elgin and to Elgin county. It’s something the whole community should be proud of.”
Her husband, Dr. John Hofhuis, and grandson Bode Hofhuis, 21 months, were invited to help raise the Blue Flag.
“Two-and-a-half years ago we were in South Africa on holiday when we went to the small town on the southern coast,” said Dr. Hofhuis. “We went to the beach and saw a Blue Flag on that beach. She said, make sure you get a picture . . . that’s going to be flying in Port Stanley.”
But, Winterton said, the community can’t rest on its laurels.
“You’ve got to work to keep it. It (accreditation) is only for one year,” she said.
“The flag flies when the standards are being met. And as the standards, year after year are being met, that’s how the Blue Flag becomes a permanent addition to the community,” Winterton noted.