Some three and a half years after the University of Guelph decided to toss Kemptville Agricultural College on the scrap heap, the arbitrary decision continues to grate.
Many questions remain such as: Where did U of G get the power in the first place to close Eastern Ontario’s agricultural focal point which was competing against it for students and dollars? The institution would be celebrating its 100th anniversary this year had it been left to prosper, perhaps in a restructured form.
Another outstanding question revolves around North Grenville’s largely ignored bid to take over the 857-acre campus and convert it into an educational hub specializing in agriculture and climate change. Municipal officials have hit a brick wall as solid as any on campus in trying to persuade the provincial government to download the college grounds and 50 buildings.
To date, all that’s happened following several meetings is that the frustration levels of North Grenville Mayor David Gordon and CAO Brian Carre continue to grow. Now Carre sees “a glimmer of hope” for a positive resolution by the end of this year; in the past, such glimmers have faded out.
At one point, both North Grenville officials promised a 100th celebration for the college this year no matter the state of negotiations. That has since been modified to a celebration only following agreement for municipal takeover of the campus.
U of G sounded the death knell for KCAT in its 97th year. Most of the buildings on campus have been shuttered, the staff let go, the dairy research barn closed and the herd dispersed. Part of the site is being used by the regional French language school board and Semex leases the former dairy facility.
Frustration! It’s hard to imagine the level that’s afflicted the Kemptville College Alumni since being run off campus while trying to carry on the legacy of the beloved college. Still, the alumni carries on, including with its annual meeting which was set for Aug. 26 at Lombardy Fairgrounds.
While it won’t be the same, it’ll mark the second time the annual reunion has been conducted off-campus; last year, at the invitation of alumnus and owner Gib Patterson, the gathering was held at Emerald Links Golf Club, at Manotick.
Past president Ron Burgess revealed last year that the Lombardy site with its tidy collection of orange-roofed buildings and campus-style layout was being considered as the alumni’s new home away from home.
The main agricultural building on the grounds used for exhibits and lunches during the fair doubles as a roomy meeting hall with full facilities including kitchen. But the alumni’s interest in transferring its base of operations to the fairgrounds doesn’t stop with occasional use of the hall.
A 24 by 36-foot building with LED lighting, propane heat and hydro has been designed that – with membership approval – could be constructed at the fairgrounds to permanently house KCAT artifacts. Alumni members have collected hundreds of documents, awards and such items as lab equipment to prevent them from going into a dumpster and now have to relocate them.
The new alumni centre would mimic in style and colour buildings already in place and would be located directly across from the agricultural hall. One conspicuous feature would be that the new building would be windowless to allow for more wall storage space.
In a partnership with the Lombardy Agricultural Society, some expenses of operating the building would be traded off in return for part-time use by the society, said director John Joynt who has been working with Burgess on the concept.
Burgess has been surveying alumni to determine if there’s an interest in pursuing the new home which would require pledges to get up and running. Financial contributors would receive tax receipts and their names displayed inside the building. The project could get a nudge forward Aug. 26.
This project makes sense. Only dreamers can seriously believe that Kemptville College will return to its glory days when almost everything of importance to Eastern Ontario farming passed through its doors. The provincial government and U of G are conspiring against such an outcome.
A building at Lombardy would be the next best thing to actually being there… on campus, that is. The Lombardy Agricultural Society is an efficient organization run by people dedicated to the Eastern Ontario agricultural community and its causes.
On a much smaller scale, the society board is everything the U of G board of governors is not.