LETTER: The reformatory could be a great tourist destination

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GuelphToday received the following letter to the editor from Yorklands Green Hub Chair Norah Chaloner regarding tourism:

GuelphToday received the following letter to the editor from Yorklands Green Hub Chair Norah Chaloner regarding tourism:

Yorklands Green Hub is a non-profit citizens’ group working to secure part of Ontario’s Heritage Reformatory (OR) for shared use as an environmental sustainability center and park. Our success depends on community support.

This unique forward-thinking institution originated in 1910 under the concept of reform with inmate labor through outdoor labor, additional education, and trades training. Our volunteer organization, over the past 9 years, has gathered a great deal of research into its past and the future possibilities of the former OR site in Guelph that must be considered now that the Province is selling this public property.

Over the years, we have hosted workshops, classes, walks and lectures at countless events and established our key programs to build resilience to climate stress through an on-site Sustainable Environments Center. This would continue the culture of public use and enjoyment of this unique heritage landscape.

Past activities have included Jane’s Walks, five annual Yorklands Artspirations, three Plein Airs, Open Doors, monthly second Sunday walks and talks as well as biodiversity days and site activities. Our public events have included lectures on heritage, food, water and energy. which has generated a great deal of interest in the history of this site and the possibilities of repurposing it for the use of citizens. We have summarized some of this in our 21 Green Door newsletters (on our website). And last fall, we held a special event to celebrate the 110th anniversary of our OU’s origins with speakers, walks and all-day discussions on the site. This unique historic institution is now part of cultural history. and natural of Guelph.

We have worked with many other groups and classes at the University of Waterloo, Wilfred Laurier University and the University of Guelph on many aspects of the possibilities for repurposing this site. We benefited from these classes of students from different levels and from different departments who did research for us. Some of this research can be found on our website with thematic videos.

Local artists like Sharyn Siebert have sold many beautiful works of art depicting the natural beauty of OR with its unique stone features and trails around ponds and meadows. Irene Hanuta has created a landmark book “Coloring Yorklands” which will now go into a second edition. The late Karl Grottenthaler, former assistant superintendent, wrote a book “The House on the Hill” about its history. Part of it can be found on our website.

Kingston Jail has become a hugely popular tourist attraction since 2015 and has injected millions of dollars into the city. Guelph could offer similar indoor tours coupled with outdoor walks along trails among the beautiful landscape and inmate-built stone features. A great weekend outing would boost tourism in Guelph.

The City of Guelph invites people to have their say on its website. With continued public support, the OR could be a wonderful regional tourist destination with repurposed buildings for education, research, entrepreneurial skills and businesses to support urban resilience to climate stress. Many groups could organize interesting events and festivals in this park which would attract travelers to visit our city.

We invite people to take advantage of our weekend walks in May and June and join in the fun of our second “We ❤️ Yorklands Walkathon”.

The city wants your stories and ideas. Now is the time to send them. And if you copy them to us, we will add them to our archives.

Norah Chalonner
Chair
Yorklands Green Hub

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