For 20 years, the fate of the old Ontario Reformatory Lands have been a matter of some question, and the answer to that question is complicated by the tangled web of ownership. As successive governments have worked to untangle that web, all that residents and history buffs have been able to do is plan, advocate and educate, but what happens now that we’re so close to revealing the final fate of the OR Lands?
In 1909, Provincial Secretary for Ontario William Hanna began a progressive program for prison reform in Ontario, and the Ontario Reformatory in Guelph was perhaps the finest example of his idealism. There is a certain irony in one of the most beautiful places in Guelph being a prison site, but that’s only because the inmates of the time made it so; from the prison building to the landscaping and the man-made lake.
But the OR closed in 2002, all the inmates were moved to other accommodations, and aside from the occasional film or TV production, the OR lands have largely been reclaimed by the people. It’s a great place that you can almost never stop exploring, but it’s about to change in very big ways with almost 600 acres sold to Fusion Homes and a Heritage District study currently underway. What’s next for the Ontario Reformatory Lands, and whose vision will be better represented?
On this week’s podcast we’re joined by Alex Smith, who is on the board of directors of the Yorklands Green Hub, to talk about the goals of the Hub, and the reasons he’s involved. He will also talk about the ownership of the property, and whether all the stakeholders are on the same page in terms of the efforts to preserve the OR Lands’ heritage value. And finally, he will talk about encouraging public access to the lands right now, and whether or not they’re getting the right amount of attention this election.
So let’s go back to the OR Lands, maybe for the first time, on this week’s Guelph Politicast!
You can learn more about the Yorklands Green Hub at their website. The Hub will be holding a Tree Festival on the OR lands on Saturday September 24 from 1 to 3 pm and you can find that information at the YGH website. For something more formal, there will be an in-person open house about the Heritage Conservation District (HCD) Study on Thursday September 29 at 6:30 pm at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #234. The City also collecting your feedback on the review until October 13.
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