Early 2021 has delivered a dose of very good news for the Haliburton Highlands.
It was revealed Jan. 8 that the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) had purchased the Frost Centre.
Infrastructure Ontario, the Crown agency that manages provincially-owned lands and buildings enlisted CBRE Limited Real Estate Brokerage to list the 40.63-acre property in the fall. The waterfront land, 21 buildings, full kitchen, dining-hall and recreation centre were put on the market for just $1.1 million so we expected a quick sale.
It was fast and OPSEU ended up shelling out $3.2 million so we can only suspect there was a bidding war for the prime piece of land located on the shores of St. Nora Lake.
The property did come with certain conditions that required a special sort of owner. For example, they have to respect the existing trail system, heritage designations and easements.
It would appear OPSEU is on board. In their press release about the purchase, they referenced the history of the Frost Centre. President Smokey Thomas acknowledged its legacy of training forest rangers in the 1920s and other educational and research purposes up to its closure in 2004.
His second in command, Eddy Almeida, said they have an opportunity but also a duty to protect the property’s integrity, respect the environment and be good neighbours.
They did the decent thing by calling Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt Dec. 7. She said she and Thomas spoke of many opportunities for collaboration and partnership between the facility and the community at large. In addition, Moffatt said the revitalization of the property as an educational facility will provide many employment opportunities across a range of fields.
OPSEU will use the site as a training facility for its members and their families. They represent 170,000 frontline public sector workers. Thomas said they will train their members and leaders in the 2020s and beyond.
Locals will remember the shock, disappointment and anger that accompanied the closure more than 16 years ago. Knowing today that the centre will again be used for its intended purpose – that of a training facility – has to ease some of that angst.
Further knowing that OPSEU respects the centre’s history and plans to honour it in some way affords a further sign of relief for those who’ve wanted to preserve this piece of our local history.
There is no doubt that OPSEU will have to do a lot of work to get the facility up and running. When Algonquin Highlands staff and council toured the facility in 2013, Moffatt said she was disheartened by the state it had fallen into.
Being in the centre since its closure, Moffatt also said that each time they wandered the barren halls and stood in the empty classrooms, there was a tangible sadness and she could feel the memories.
In time, OPSEU and its deep pockets will be able to restore the Frost Centre to its former glory. Those halls and classrooms will be filled again. New memories will be made.
One can only imagine that Leslie M. Frost is smiling down upon this newest chapter of his namesake property and that his vision will continue to be carried out.