When the announcement came in 2014 that Kemptville College was closing, the future seemed quite bleak. Ten years later, the prospects for the new Kemptville Campus look bright indeed. It took time to get the new facility up and running. It took four years for the Municipality of North Grenville to reach an agreement with the Ontario government, by which the province required the land to be purchased at market value, which they placed at $11 million. To compensate for “infrastructure deficits and deferred maintenance on the property”, $3.3 million was taken off the asking price. The sale of two buildings and a 7‑acre parcel of the campus by the Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario (CEPEO) – the French Language Public School Board – for $3.7 million provided a reserve fund to be spent exclusively on infrastructure renewal and the development and continued sustainability of the new Kemptville Campus.
In 2020, the Municipality engaged StrategyCorp to conduct a strategic review regarding the objectives of the Campus as a municipal asset – and to recommend a robust governance model, so that Kemptville Campus can deliver on its mandate. As a result, Kemptville Campus was established as non-profit corporation with a Board of Directors overseeing the work of Liz Sutherland, the Executive Director, and a small staff. Liz outlined the basic structure of the Campus in an interview with the Times:
“We have a Memorandum of Understanding with the Municipality that outlines the reporting structure and how we access the remaining reserve fund for the remaining capital work that needs to be done. But, in the long term, the plan is for us to be financially self‑sufficient and use the rental income that we generate from our tenants to maintain the facilities, offer programming, and essentially, run a community centre for North Grenville.”
In effect, the Campus is a tenant of the Municipality, with a number of bodies renting space on the campus lands as sub-tenants. The nine-member Board is Chaired by Brian McKee, and contains within it a broad and deep wealth of experience. The plan of the Board is to have a new Strategic Plan for the Campus ready to go this year. The original plan drawn up back in 2021 had, as Brian McKee says, “some very grand ideas. Our experience has been that they were grand ideas that cannot really be accomplished. But we’ve engaged in a new strategic planning process to come up with some more realistic targets and ideas. But certainly I think one of the core things still coming out is a notion that we are a community hub”.
And as that hub, the Campus has attracted quite a number of tenants, including one of the French school boards, the Upper Canada District School Board, the NG Historical Society, NG Pride, and the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit, among many others.
The OMAFRA and ServiceOntario offices, which were already on the Campus, continue to be tenants. The Campus has also hosted many community and other events, notably Kemptville Live and performances by the North Grenville Community Theatre.
Elementary and high school students at Riviere Rideau and Notre Dame continue to enjoy the campus space including the gym, the trails, and the outdoor classroom. The Campus partners with the schools to offer apprenticeship training and other educational opportunities. The campus covers almost 630 acres of land, including forests, wetlands, farmland, and a “village” of buildings, soccer fields, and other recreational facilities. There’s a sugar bush, beehives, research and growing in the greenhouse, a community garden, and a catering business, and there is ongoing work on a range of initiatives to re‑establish a local food system on site, building on the long agricultural and food heritage laid down by the former College.
In fact, there is so much going on at the Kemptville Campus grounds that it will take a series of articles to cover everything. And so, you can expect to read much more in the future about the very exciting prospects and activities of this revitalised part of North Grenville’s history.