Hamilton Mack Laing, a renowned Canadian environmentalist and naturalist, left his home, Shakesides, which he built by hand in 1949, to the Town of Comox, with a trust fund of over $50,000 to convert it into public 'natural history museum'.
Laing deeded his entire property to the Town as a public park in 1973. At that time he stated his desire that Shakesides be made available for public use and the property be left in its natural state.
Laing lived in Shakesides until he died in 1985 at the age of 99. The house sits on the waterfront of the property, now known as Mack Laing Park.
Instead of creating a museum, the Town rented the house from 1985 until 2014, kept the income and, used the trust fund for other purposes.
Now they want to ignore Laing's legal wishes,
overturn the Trust, demolish the house, and create a viewing platform.
The Town has filed a petition with the Supreme Court of BC, against the Attorney General of BC - who is responsible for trusts as 'parents patriae' and prevented the Town from demolishing Shakesides in 2015, pending further information on its state and the intention of the Town regards the money in the Trust.
In order to assist with the legal challenge, the Society, in cooperation with Comox Valley Naturalists, has hired a very knowledgeable and committed lawyer to assist with filings being sent to the Attorney General of BC.
The Society has paid for this work, provided at a very reasonable rate, from donated funds. However, in order to continue to use the services of this lawyer, more funds are needed.
Should the legal challenge by the Town fail, and Shakesides saved from demolition, the Mack Laing Heritage Society is committed to working with all interested parties to create a nature house/museum in Shakesides, at no cost to the Town.
Many professionals and construction experts, as well national, provincial and local groups, have already expressed their support for a community project that would honour Laing's wishes.
The Mack Laing Heritage Society has been committed to saving Shakesides since 2015. Volunteers have spent hundreds of hours clearing invasive plants from around the house, and removing 30 years of accumulated garbage. Members regularly patrol the area to ensure the integrity of the house. Any damage is reported to the Town. Illegal entries are reported to the local RCMP detachment.
The Town of Comox demolished Baybrook, the first home Laing built in 1923, in August 2015. They must not be allowed to demolish his second home, left in trust to citizens, and violate the wishes of a generous and public spirited pioneer.
This project would be a suitable goal for Canada's 150th Anniversary.
Learn more about Mack Laing and the Mack Laing Heritage Society here: Mack Laing Heritage Society website