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Charlottetown Experimental Station

Back in 1995 a group of us got together to discuss The Experimental Farm around Ravenwood just up the hill from St. Avards. The Federal people were gradually moving their operation out to Harrington and it was apparent that The Home Farm would some day be considered surplus. We met for over a year and we came up with a vision for the place. It included an arboretum, a botanical garden, protection of the early 19th century house and even many of the out buildings, the Royal Grove and many of the other trees, hedges and small wood lots on the property and of course the Lily Pond. We spent a lot of time talking about vistas and green spaces. We shared the plan with the officials of the day and then things seemed to come to a stand still. The Federal people seemed in no hurry to vacate the space and they were concentrating their time vacating the Upton Farm out on the North River.

Entry a city committee hell bent on building a swimming pool and some rinks. A good committee and anxious to get going because there are dreams of holding the summer games here in 2009 [?]. Remember we have no public indoor pool in town - and our rinks are getting very old and overloaded, they tell us. They did a review of needs and possible locations. Long story/short story they worked a deal with the Federal Public Works people - ultimate owners they say of all federal lands [before they pass unwanted parts over to Canada Land Corporation] to acquire 20 acres of the Exxperimental Farm. Most of the summer we heard hints of the location being at the corner of University and Belvedere and most of us never believed that we could save that corner anyway. When the announcement was made the 20 acres that were being discussed were somewhat in the middle of the farm - in from Pottery Lane , east of the rail line, but pretty well north of the lily pond, house etc. and not on the corner at all.

It's not a bad site, but there are issues of concern. With the parking and the building they would probably be using around 6 acres of the twenty and as they say they would give it the college campus look. They do very much like the idea that there is room for expansion in the future and they mention curling rink, bowling alleys and things like that. They would most likely build through a design/build/lease arrangement and that is always a worry . First what will the place look like after the pencils are sharpened and then how much will the public pay for using what most people consider a public building that just isn't exactly so. And then we have the school of thought that the farm offers an exceptional opportunity for a magnificent park in the middle of our city. And it IS in the middle of our new amalgamated city. Not often in this day and age does such a magnificent green space became available. When the farm - minus the 20 acres and the heritage component: Ravenwood, Lily Pond and Royal Grove - goes over to the Canada Land Corp. all the land will be regarded as a straight business deal. Real estate values are being worked out as we speak. Canada Land Corp tells us they will do nothing without public input and they have also had planners look at the space, and the town, and will develop criteria and even design guidelines to direct the development. They said they don't skimp on that part of the exercise. In the meantime the rumour mill is in a panic and the very worst scenario are being batted about.

As I mentioned in my tale on Victoria Park, the City does not have a parks' policy - they have a recreation policy. There is a difference. The city does have some parks. They have our four city squares, The Confederation Landing on the waterfront and they have the new Joe Ghiz Park that was recently developed, in co-operation with the IODE, at the east end of Grafton Street. They also have a number of other green spaces that they have acquired through the development policy that states that 10% of any new development must be given over to park land. They will be getting close to 30 acres when the Upton Farm is developed. So it certainly is the time for the city to add a very well thought out mission statement for their park lands and begin to budget an equal number of dollars for passive green as they do for active sports properties.

Tonight a meeting was held by concerned groups that included residents from an adjacent residential area, supporters of All Green and a number of other concerned citizens. It was a good meeting and a lot of emotional feelings were expressed in the best possible way for the good of the farm. There will be more meetings no doubt. The Friends of The Farm are holding a meeting on February 20th at 7:30 at Colonel Gray High School. Circle that date and I'll let you know more about it later.

Written Friday, February 08, 2002 at 10:40 AM

(c) 2000 by Catherine Hennessey. Questions or comments? Email me@catherinehennessey.com

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