Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News
KEMPTVILLE — A revamped, almost theme-park style Kemptville Campus as described in a Regeneration Plan released last week can co-exist with a provincial prison across the way… especially with appropriate buffers.
So says North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford who, in addition to the master plan announcement, is thrilled about other news that the campus has been given provincial approval to provide foundational technician training, including in agriculture.
The last trades training courses were delivered on campus in 2016 after University of Guelph had announced its intention to abandon the satellite college.
“Securing apprenticeships is literally the foot in the door we needed to help set a role for the campus in the agricultural sector,” Peckford told NVN. Ever since NG acquired most of it, the mayor has been a strong proponent of bringing an agricultural component back to the former satellite college.
The municipality took over the main campus of about 650 acres and 50 buildings of all shapes and sizes about three years ago. In the intervening years, the site has become an educational hub primarily serving area school boards. Recently announced, the prison is to be built on about 180 acres across County Road 44 where the Barr Arena and dairy research barn are located.
“We had offered to lease the farm side in advance of the 2022 International Plowing Match and asked for first right of refusal to buy those lands if they were surplused,” the mayor said. “While a prison wasn’t our vision and nowhere in our plans, the main campus is still three times the size of those lands with amazing assets to leverage.”
She stated that NG council will insist that, if a prison does proceed, there are buffers in place: “It’s my assumption that there’s a way to insulate the prison from the community visually… and still do interesting things on the campus side.”
One of those interesting things as outlined in the master plan compiled after extensive consultation with stakeholders is a demonstration agri-tourism and agriculture showcase along the 44 known simply as The Farm. It’s among proposals intended to provide a 10-year planning horizon related to campus land use, buildings, open space, natural areas, transportation and infrastructure.
“The demonstration farm is a very interesting idea,” said Peckford who doubles for the time being as chair of the Kemptville Campus Education and Community Centre, noting there are sufficient prime croplands on the campus side of the highway. She explained the KCECC will be transitioning to a new board within the next six months and that recruitment of a new chair will begin shortly.
As with other proposals in the master plan, The Farm is of a grand scope. The site would provide an opportunity to local producers to introduce visitors to their products and unique forms of agriculture and specialty crops such as berries, pumpkins, lavender, grapes and sunflowers.
“A focus on visitor experience will create a powerful and attractive landmark for the campus and a day-trip tourist destination,” the plan states.
Part of the agriculture-related package would be to preserve and enhance the existing nut grove and demonstration forest adjacent to the farm lands and comprising the new “bold roadside attraction.”
In other sectors of the campus, proposals call for agriculture and rural themed outdoor art, community gardens and local produce markets.