The fall season has come and gone and Gravenhurst council still has no indication of what the future of the former Muskoka Regional Centre property will be.
Mayor Paul Kelly had hoped to hear back from the province by the time snow started to fall, but he’s still being kept in the dark. The centre was opened in 1963 to help provide relief to the Huronia Regional Centre in Orillia, according to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services’ website. The centre provided service primarily for women.
It was closed in 1994. Kelly says the 90-acre property was home to around 300 employees at the time of its closure.
As the calendar flips to December, Kelly says he’s yet to hear a peep from the province.
“It’s been a long haul waiting to do something with that property,” he says.
As he understands, information for proposals went out to potential proponents of the site. He says there were “quite a few proposals.” He was involved in that process and explained to provincial officials what he believed would be acceptable to residents.
Kelly says what the community wants is jobs. Through talks with Infrastructure Ontario, he says it became “abundantly clear” that the community doesn’t want a housing subdivision.
“It’s not been a priority, that’s the bottom line,” says Kelly.
The centre is one of two properties Gravenhurst council is waiting to hear from the province on. The other being the property that used to house the Ontario Fire College. Kelly calls both “significant” properties. However, unlike the fire college property, because of decades of not being used, Kelly believes the buildings that were used for the centre will have to be torn down because of mould and asbestos.
It’s been nearly three decades of playing the waiting game, but Kelly believes the province has “more initiative” now to get something done than ever before.
Kelly is the third Mayor to be involved with the process. He says Paisley Donaldson, who served as Mayor for eight years prior to Kelly’s election in 2018, got close to working something out with Maple Leaf Schools but the plan “fell apart at the last minute.”
In recent years, there has been a lot of back and forth between Gravenhurst council and the province. The most recent of which saw Kelly and Glen Davies, the town’s former CAO, joined by John Klinck, District of Muskoka Chair (and former Mayor of Gravenhurst) and Julie Stevens, district CAO, for a meeting with provincial officials in July. It was then that they were told more would be known about what will happen with the property in July.