As part of its efforts to conserve part of the property of the former Guelph Correctional Centre, the Yorklands Green Hub is organizing ‘Kites for Yorklands’ – a kite flying event to raise awareness of the heritage and cultural value of the site, as well as its biodiversity and natural landscape.
Families and community members are invited to make their own nature-themed kite for a physically-distanced and creative summer activity that raises awareness and promotes education to preserve an important piece of Guelph’s history.
“We want people to see this site because it has deep roots in Guelph,” said Amy Barnes, the manager of operations, outreach and engagement at Yorklands.
“It's a really diverse space, both architecturally and naturally, and we feel that if people see the site and experience and interact with it, they will become more engaged to support our efforts to conserve that land.”
The Guelph Correctional Centre, formerly known as the Ontario Reformatory, was established in 1909 as one of the first institutions to move away from incarceration as a form of punishment toward the use of productive work and training as a means for rehabilitation. Inmates were responsible for building the cell blocks, as well as the ponds and waterways, stone walls, bridges, gates and terraced gardens throughout the site.
The facility was officially closed in 1972 and parts of the land were designated as heritage property in 2006. Now, the provincially-owned property is going up for sale, and the landscaped entrance along York Road is expected to be on the open market this fall.
The Yorklands Green Hub is a volunteer-run, membership-driven organization that has been working alongside other community groups to acquire and preserve a 70-acre portion of the site, while keeping it publicly accessible.
“Our mission is to create an eco-park and education, demonstration and research sustainability hub focused on urban agriculture, renewable energy, water and wetland conservation and heritage preservation,” said Elise Noughton, the coordinator of this event at Yorklands.
“Kites for Yorklands is a way to engage the public in a fun activity that celebrates local urban biodiversity while visiting and enjoying this unique public heritage site.”
Barnes adds that Yorklands is working on a number of other initiatives to showcase their plans and ideas for a future environmental hub on the site. She says advocating with and on behalf of the public is key.
“To have the community support behind us would help us leverage the interest from external parties to create a nice, public open space that becomes multifaceted and multi-purpose,” she said. “This wouldn't just be Yorklands using the site, this will be us helping to facilitate our 50-plus community groups that we've worked with in the past or who want to participate in the site in future years.”
Kites for Yorklands launched on August 1 and will run until September 15.
Anyone is welcome to participate by submitting three photos of their homemade kite, including one of the kite being flown at the Yorklands site on 785 York Rd, to [email protected]. All participants will be entered into a draw to receive one of three $40 gift cards to a local retailer. During the pandemic, participants are encouraged to practise physical distancing on the site, and to build and fly their kite with members of their household only.
For more information about the event, including links to kite-making tutorials, or to get involved with other Yorklands initiatives, visit www.yorklandsgreenhub.ca.