Consultation summary: Huronia Regional Centre Campus land
Read what we heard between August 2016 and April 2017 when we invited Ontarians to share their feedback on how the 175 acres of unused government land on the Huronia Regional Campus should be used.
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The Huronia Regional Campus (HRC) comprises about 260 acres of government‐owned and -managed land at the north of Lake Simcoe. It was the site of the Huronia Regional Centre from 1876 until it was closed in 2009. Since then, the land has been used for government programs and services that include:
- Ontario Provincial Police trainee residences and training facilities
- a courthouse
- a public health lab
While these programs and services will continue on the site, a portion of the Huronia Regional Campus has been identified as no longer needed by the Government of Ontario. The Province held a public engagement process throughout 2016/2017 to seek feedback on what the Province should do with the approximately 175 acres of currently unused land.
Map of the land
Overview of engagement activities
To facilitate accessible, diverse and inclusive participation in the engagement process, a variety of options were provided over an 8-month period from August 2016 to April 2017.
Community Living Ontario (CLO) wanted to ensure that the engagement process was accessible and inclusive for all members of the public. Working in partnership with Infrastructure Ontario, CLO assisted in development of the public engagement plan, the participant guide, and the facilitator guide, to ensure that everyone who was interested, including former residents of the Huronia Regional Centre, their families and advocates, had the opportunity to participate in the engagement.
In addition, an Advisory Panel was formed in order to review and provide input on the principles of the engagement, and provide feedback on the proposed engagement activities and materials.
The Advisory Panel met twice with the following attendees:
- Community Living Ontario
- Huronia Regional Centre former staff
- Ontario Provincial Police
- City of Orillia (Mayor, CAO, Director of Planning)
- Lakehead University, Simcoe County
- Huronia Cultural Campus Foundation
- Orillia Chamber of Commerce
- Infrastructure Ontario
The engagement activities are described below in more detail.
On March 30, 2017 Infrastructure Ontario hosted a Public Meeting in Orillia to hear feedback and ideas about the unused land at the HRC.
The Public Meeting consisted of two sessions held at Orillia City Hall, Council Chamber. An afternoon session was held from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and an evening session was held from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Each session began with brief opening remarks by Jim Faught, Lura Consulting, the independent meeting facilitator, followed by spoken remarks and deputations from members of the public.
During the afternoon session there were approximately 80 attendees and 17 speakers, and during the evening session there were approximately 40 attendees and 12 speakers. The evening session was webcast live on Rogers TV.com.
An online survey was made available at www.Ontario.ca/HuroniaConsultation from August 25, 2016 to April 28, 2017. During this period, 690 responses were received from a variety of stakeholder groups and the public.
One-on-one interviews with interested stakeholders and members of the public (in person or by telephone) were provided as an option to share feedback on the HRC unused land to provide improved access and maximize participation in a less formalized setting. Three interviews were held.
A discussion guide and accompanying facilitator’s guide was made available on the Huronia website to be downloaded by anyone interested in hosting their own conversation about the HRC unused land. Feedback collected during these conversations could be submitted by email or mail using the forms provided in the discussion guide. Two of the emailed comments referenced that they used the discussion guides in developing their submission.
Email written comments
All stakeholders and members of the public were encouraged to provide written comments by email to HuroniaCampusUpdates@infrastructureontario.ca during the engagement period. Written comments from approximately 25 individuals were received.
Advisory panel meetings
Two meetings were held on February 13 and 21, 2017 in Orillia to review the engagement plan with a representative group of stakeholders. The meetings sought advice on how best to consult and engage with the diverse set of public and stakeholders interested in providing feedback and input to the government on the unused lands.
Summary of feedback
The following sections include a summary of the feedback provided by engagement participants through the various options identified above. The first section is focused on feedback related to the HRC unused land and the second section is focused on feedback related to the broader HRC lands, including the land and buildings currently in use by the Province.
Each section has been organized according to key themes that emerged in no particular order or ranking.
Feedback on HRC unused land
Overarching comments made about of potential land use
- Any land use should be inclusive and accessible; a place that everyone is able to enjoy year-round and that recognizes the history of institutionalization in Ontario as well as the accomplishments and successes of people with intellectual disabilities.
- The land use should result in a positive economic impact on the community while being self-sustaining.
- The site should be a peaceful place for reflection and education.
Recognition of the history of the Huronia Regional Centre
- The land use should be respectful and honour the people who experienced the Huronia Regional Centre and all of Ontario’s institutions; it should recognize the mistakes of the past
- The site should commemorate former residents and those who lost their lives at the Huronia Regional Centre. It should include a memorial that is collaboratively designed by former residents.
- If there is any profit to be made from the land, former residents and victims of abuse and neglect should be the ones who benefit
Ownership of the land
- There is a desire for the land to remain in the public domain; the land should not be sold for private development.
- The land not used by Provincial agencies should be offered to the City of Orillia for park use, including the shoreline.
- The Province should donate the land or retain ownership of it, while transferring control of the land to the City of Orillia or Huronia Cultural Campus Foundation (HCCF).
Protection of natural heritage features
- The highest and best use for the natural portion of the property is permanent protection (by title transfer or easement) and management of the key natural heritage features including:
- Bluff’s Creek Provincially Significant Wetland
- the undisturbed shoreline
- wooded wetlands
- Protection of the site’s natural features would support the Lake Simcoe Protection Act and is critical for providing wildlife habitat and contributing to the ecological health of Lake Simcoe and the watershed.
- A permanently protected zone, including appropriate buffers, would total 132 acres.
How to use the land
- A variety of differing land uses were suggested by the public and stakeholders including:
- an accessible public park and recreational space including elements such as accessible seating and trails, playground, a memorial site, art installations, dog park, community garden and accessible cottages for vacation and/or programming use
- an outdoor performance centre
- affordable housing operated by the County of Simcoe
- a summer camp for children with disabilities
- a vibrant community to support seniors in active and independent living, while maintaining public access
- expansion of Georgian College and Lakehead University campus
- a centre for healing and transformation, rooted in the arts and environment
Huronia Cultural Campus Foundation proposal
- A proposal was put forward by the Huronia Cultural Campus Foundation (HCCF) for the site to be re-purposed into a cultural hub.
- Support for the Huronia Cultural Campus proposal was expressed by a number of organizations and participants.
- There was a suggestion made that the HCCF proposal should include post-secondary institutions as partners in developing a creative computer and information technology learning and development hub.
- There was a suggestion made that the HCCF vision should incorporate a place where food culture could be enhanced and celebrated through festivals, workshops, educational events, etc. including experimental and innovative farming and food production practices.
- Concern was expressed regarding the financial accessibility of potential future arts/culture uses.
- Simcoe Community Services and the Simcoe Community Services Foundation expressed interest in acquiring the Coral Cove land parcel. The groups’ vision was that this property would be made available to Simcoe County agencies and families supporting individuals with an intellectual disability. During the summer months it would provide an accessible vacation site for families and individuals and throughout the rest of the year the site would be available for respite services.
- The Orillia Rowing Club expressed an interested in securing one acre of land with approximately 30 metres of waterfront access for the relocation of the club’s rowing activities. The site was described suitable based on prevailing winds. Proposed future use would include a floating dock and boat storage and a commitment was expressed to ensure minimal environmental impact.
Key issues for consideration
- Ongoing maintenance of the site and funding requirements.
Feedback on HRC lands currently in-use
- Former residents and advocates have expressed a desire that the buildings of the former Huronia Regional Centre should be demolished and replaced with a memorial for those who lost their lives there. The presence of the buildings acts as a reminder to former residents of the suffering they endured.
- There is concern that the buildings on the HRC lands are in a state of disrepair, posing health and safety concerns for users (e.g. structurally unsound, mold exposure).
- The suggestion was made to create an art exhibit inside the buildings to memorialize every former resident and educate the public about its past.
- The Ontario Disability Support Program office should be relocated off of the HRC site; people should not be forced to revisit the site
- The cemetery should be preserved and enhanced.
Ontario Provincial Police interests
- The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has expressed an interest in the HRC in-use portion of the property and surplus land, including a portion of the waterfront, as a potential location for the new Orillia Detachment.
- Given that the OPP already uses some of the HRC buildings and grounds for services, the OPP believes it is fiscally responsible to allocate the land to the OPP as it aligns with the Ontario Government’s objectives and priorities for reutilization of government land.
- Acquiring both the in-use portion of the property and surplus land to expand OPP facilities and resources would further enhance the local and surrounding economy.
- The OPP expressed a desire to ensure the history of the former Huronia Regional Centre is preserved, recognized and respected.
Feedback on decision-making process
- Former residents of the Huronia Regional Centre believe that they should have the strongest voice in how the land should be used. They must be engaged in a way that is meaningful. Former residents currently feel that their voices are not being heard.
- Suggestion that a panel of former residents make recommendations on suggested land uses based on the engagement process, to ensure the voices of former residents are heard.
The Government of Ontario will consider all feedback received through the public engagement process in guiding the future of the unused land at the Huronia Regional Campus.
- footnote Back to paragraph On September 15, 2014, the Honourable Helena Jaczek, Minister of Community and Social Services, unveiled a commemorative plaque at the former Huronia Regional Centre in Orillia to help honour the memory of the centre’s residents.
- footnote Back to paragraph The Huronia Regional Centre settlement agreement, reached in 2013, gave former residents who suffered harm while living at the facility access to compensation.
- footnote Back to paragraph The Ontario Disability Support Office (ODSP) moved out of the Huronia Regional Campus property on February 6, 2017.