Nipissing University threw a curveball at the Town of Bracebridge this week that’s left them scrambling to find potential buyers and uses for the soon-to-be-shuttered Muskoka campus.
“We have had some inquiries that have come in through either the university or through the town,” says Cheryl Kelly, the Town’s director of planning and development and a member of a transition working group created to map out the future of the facility. “People are still looking at what the potential might be but there hasn’t been anything firm as of yet. We thought we were working under a more generous timeline than what we are now.”
Kelly was part of a group of concerned students and citizens who traveled to the main Nipissing campus in North Bay in hopes of pushing the board of governors to keep the Muskoka campus open. Instead, the University announced Monday that they were accelerating the plans to close the school.
In June, 2015 Nipissing president Mike DeGagné told the Town that the University was planning for the intake of approximately 20 new full-time students at the Muskoka Campus in 2015 and those new students and all students currently enrolled in courses at the Muskoka campus would have the opportunity to complete their studies and continue to be supported by the University. According to a statement released by the Town, this week’s abrupt decision to speed up the closure runs contrary to what was said last year.
“We are very disappointed with the decision that was communicated through the vice-president’s office. Once again, the University’s board of governors has completely ignored the interests of the community,” says Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith.
Nipissing bought parkland from the Town for $1 in 2007, and more parkland in 2011, again for $1. At the time the decision prompted those opposed to the sale to take the decision to the OMB, but the sale was eventually allowed. The Town has the right to re-purchase the facilities, but say they aren’t exactly sure what the cost might be.
In the meantime, the Town is setting up an open house on March 10 to discuss possible future uses for the site. Kelly says the first priority for the working group was to look at post-secondary use and that work continues.
“This is a valuable piece of property with significant infrastructure on it. It’s in the town’s best interest, and the communities’ best interest, to be involved in trying to re-purpose the property,” says Kelly.
The location and format of the open house have yet to be determined.