By James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Program
This year is pivotal among milestones for the Leslie M. Frost Natural Resources Centre.
And an effort has taken root to mark a number of those anniversaries and to recognize the centre’s significance.
Barrie Martin, who was employed 28 years at the centre, told Algonquin Highlands township council Jan. 18 about how 2024 would be an opportune time to welcome back some of the people who worked and learned at the centre.
The Frost Centre represents a lot of history for the township, Haliburton County, and the province. And this year is significant as it marks a half century since the centre’s inception, 20 years since it was shuttered, and 77 years since it began as the Ontario Forest Ranger School.
“So it seems 2024 is a key year for considering a reunion,” Martin said.
Hundreds of people worked over the years at the centre and at the Ministry of Natural Resources at that location. A reunion would be of interest to many of those people, as well as friends and supporters of the centre over the years.
Many of those people have already expressed interest in returning for the multi-day reunion, Martin said.
“Who knows, it might be a way of encouraging the current owners to further develop the facility with the community in mind,” he said.
Some of the ideas for events being tossed around include an open house with presentations and exhibits, guided hikes, a series of speakers, and perhaps a concert and a gala.
“There’s a number of elements that could be part of it,” he said.
The reunion could be hosted at any of the community centres in the area. But attempts are underway to investigate availing space at the Frost Centre.
Given the time needed to plan the events, Martin said a reunion will likely be in October.
The great question with any such event is money. To that end, Martin said there’s indication that donations are forthcoming. They could also sell tickets and rally sponsors.
“There are some sources of funding,” he said.
But he acknowledged that it would be difficult to bring plans to fruition without money from the municipal, county, and provincial governments.
“I don’t see scaling it down to a day or a half day,” Martin said. “Most people would have to travel to the area to participate in the reunion.”
Mayor Liz Danielsen said the township could help out by way of letters of support for the reunion to be sent to possible funding providers at the provincial and federal governments.
She said council would consider reducing or even waiving fees for the use of community venues. And, she said, the township could assist with promotional efforts.
“It’s a benefit to the municipality as a whole,” Danielsen said. “I’m quite sure we can help you there.”
Councillor Lisa Barry agreed.
Danielsen said there’s a municipal policy that limits outright donations to such events. But the possibility of a partnership could be explored, should organizers see fit.
“We have a No Donation policy,” she said. “But I’m sure that there’s a way that we can talk about that, how we can overcome that.”
Deputy Mayor Jennifer Dailloux is an alumna of the Frost Centre. She said it was a seminal part of her upbringing.
“And I know that’s the truth for lots and lots and lots of Ontarians,” Dailloux said.