An organization is looking to turn the former Guelph Correctional Centre into an urban park.
There is an online petition put out by Urban Park Guelph urging the federal government to direct Parks Canada in creating an urban park there.
In 2021, Parks Canada was looking to open 15 national urban parks across Canada. Spokesperson for Urban Park Guelph P. Brian Skerrett said they thought it would be a great idea to put one at the site off York Road.
“We looked at their proposal and what they are putting together, and we thought: ‘Boy, this is perfect outcome for what’s left of the reformatory.”
The property has over 108 hectares of space that Skerrett said is mostly environmentally sensitive land but much of the wetlands and forests over the last 20 years has disappeared due to what he calls human settlement.
“What’s left (of the land) is just a fraction of that and is not particularly developable,” Skerrett said. “It is a decent chunk of land that doesn’t have a lot of obvious uses. We’ll never get it back again if we don’t preserve it.”
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In addition to the land, Urban Park Guelph is also looking at protecting a stretch along the Eramosa River to city-owned property located on Stone Road East.
“Guelph residents have been wanting public access to that land because they’ve been using it for over 100 years,” said Skerrett. “Conservationists have recognized that there is not only a large are along the Eramosa River and an area of national and scientific interest to conserve, there are a ton of opportunities for restoration.”
Urban Park Guelph recently received endorsements from the Mississauga of the Credit First Nations and Wildlands League. Other organizations like the Rotary Club of Guelph, the Arboretum at the University of Guelph, and Guelph Climate Action Network are also backing the idea.
Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation Chief Claire Sault said in a statement: “This place offers a profound opportunity for Healing, Conservation, Restoration, and a Connection to Nature. We call on the Federal Government, the Provincial Government, and the City of Guelph to work with Urban Park Guelph and the Mississaugas of the Credit toward this goal.”
Skerrett sees these endorsements as a powerful statement.
“It’s given us the power to say: ‘OK now we have a park. Instead of needing endorsement to get to the park, now we got the park to get to reconciliation and healing’,” he said.
The deadline to sign the petition is Thursday Jan. 18.
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